Today’s reading in Nehemiah reminds us how easy it is to get distracted from God’s purposes and plans for us. These days, we have far more avenues for distraction than the post-exilic Israelites. What do you do to keep yourself focused on God’s purposes for your life?
- 1-14 – It is easy to get distracted from the work God has set out for us to do, but Nehemiah was faithful in refusing to be distracted from finishing the restoration of Jerusalem’s wall.
- 6-60 – This is a listing of the people who returned to Israel from exile in Babylon.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13:
- Much of Paul’s instruction in this first letter to the Corinthians regards caring for those who aren’t as far along in their faith development. Though our faith may be strong enough to withstand certain temptations, others’ may not be. We are called to cater to their needs in those situations.
- We are to offer our praises to God because he is able to do great things and he does great things.
Even for faithful folks, it’s easier to focus and spend our time on the things that are most imminent, those that we can see and touch. Even more than that, we tend to have things that scream for our attention. Those demand that we give them our time and attention. In today’s Romans reading, we are reminded of how easy it is to give ourselves over to whatever idol is placed before us. But we must remember that none of these things will satisfy like worshipping God.
1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36:
- 1-24 – David prepares a huge celebration for the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
- 29 – This is the same story that’s found in 2 Samuel 6 when David dances undignified before the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant returns to its rightful place and people.
- 8-36 – Like Moses, Mary, Zechariah, and others, David has a song for the Lord to praise him for a specific situation but also uses that time to praise God for his overall goodness.
- 20 – This verse explains that God’s character and attributes are revealed through creation – aka we can know that he gives us new life when we see leaves reappear on trees in the spring, or we can see his power and majesty through the mountains, etc. This is an answer to many people who wonder about people who have never heard about God. They have seen him all around them.
- 22-23 – It is easier to worship the things we see, touch, and are familiar with. This is why the Israelites wanted some tangible thing, even just a golden calf, to convince themselves that there was a god to worship and take care of them.
- 24-27 – Four times in a row, Paul explains that people exchanged God’s perfect plan for something counterfeit. He explains that God gave the people over to the counterfeit thing they desired.
- 28-32 – Those who are not righteous not only practice these things that are listed, but they also encourage others to practice them as well.
- The psalmist seems to be describing someone who is wicked and sinning purposefully. And seemingly, it is someone who is sinning and wicked towards him. Though the judgment and request for punishment sounds harsh, we would probably feel the same way towards our true enemies.
- This is also the psalm of people who, in frustration, watch others get away with bad things.
- Once again we’re confronted with our bias towards wealth. Poor men tend to be left in a lurch by everyone where as people come out of the woodworks for someone with money or influence.
Are you a terrible singer? Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? That’s ok! You can’t tell me you don’t belt it out in the shower or when alone in your car. Praising God is the perfect time to stretch out those vocal chords. Today’s psalm reminds us that we’re all called to give God praise through song. He deserves it and loves it…even if you sound awful.
2 Kings 18:13-19:37:
- 16 – Gold that was, at one time, given as an offering to the Lord to build his home amongst the Israelites, was now stripped off and given to a foreign king. The change in the state of affairs is drastic.
- 19-25 – A message is sent from the king of Assyria to Hezekiah, the king of Judah, taunting him and saying that God will not be able to save Judah.
- 28-35 – Hezekiah was a king faithful to the Lord. Clearly the king of Assyria is trying to do everything he can to get the people of Judah to turn against Hezekiah and God.
- 36-1 – Hezekiah’s men all tore their clothes as a sign of deep sorrow and disgrace. They were afraid that the king of Assyria might be right.
- 6-7 – Isaiah, the next great prophet, assures Hezekiah and his men that God will rescue them and the king of Assyria will actually die in his own land.
- 10-13 – The king of Assyria’s bullying tactics are convincing. All the other kings Assyria had gone up against had fallen. Granted, their gods weren’t God.
- 29-31 – God gives Judah a sign that he actually is speaking and they can trust him.
- 10-14 – Though Christian persecution was rampant in Jerusalem, Paul knew he had to go there. All his companions tried to convince him not to, but he was well prepared to face persecution for the sake of the gospel.
- 3 – We are to praise the Lord with song…even if we’re not that talented. Just make a joyful noise.
Oh dear sweet Azariah, you almost had it! In today’s 2 Kings reading Azariah realizes, as should have been very clear by now, that partial faithfulness is actually not faithfulness at all. Azariah seems like a good king and does a lot of faithful things, but he draws the line at destroying worship implements of other gods, which would have helped protect his people from worshipping other gods. Partial faithfulness is also partially unfaithful.
2 Kings 15:1-16:20:
- 1 – Azariah was also known as Uzziah, who we’ll hear about in the book of Isaiah.
- 4-5 – Though Azariah was faithful in a lot of ways, he did not destroy the opportunities for the Israelites to worship other gods. His punishment was leprosy.
- 12-13 – Shallum was no longer in the same family as the previous kings.
- 16 – This kind of terror and violence was foretold by Elisha. Because Israel had strayed so far from God, Hazael of Syria and others were able to get in and cause total chaos and destruction. Elisha and God were not pleased by these consequences, but they knew and warned that Israel’s sins would lead them to this type of harm.
- 37 – Not only had Israel split in two (Israel and Judah) politically, but now Israel has joined forces with Syria to attack Judah. Remember, that Israel and Judah are all descendants of one family.
- 10-16 – King Ahaz, the new king of Judah, builds an alter replicating the one in Assyria. This is not an altar to God, but to one of the Assyrian gods. The king of Assyria then dictates what types of offerings the people of Judah should offer.
- 19 – After each king’s profile it says that the rest of what that king did is written in a different book. The writers of 1 and 2 Kings only included what the king did in relation to God and the covenant the Israelites had with God.
- 13-20 – The Ephesians had seen Paul cast out evil spirits and some people wanted to do the same by using magic. It backfired and caused a lot more people to follow Jesus.
- 23-27 – It is no new thing that people are persuaded to be unfaithful in order to secure or grow their finances.
- 32-34 – A case of mob mentality.
- 35-41 – The mob is disassembled, but the issue is not resolved.
- This psalm is a series of urges to praise God followed by reasons why he is worthy of praise.
There are certain things in life that you simply cannot do halfway. You can’t get kind of married. You can’t come to work sometimes (and expect to keep working there). And you can’t love God most of the time. This is what Jehoshaphat tried to do. For the most part, he’s a good guy…but he was only faithful to a point. God is not looking for partial followers or sometimes believers. He is looking for our whole hearts and whole commitment.
1 Kings 22:1-53:
- 5 – Jehoshaphat was willing to go into an alliance with Ahab, but only if the Lord approved it.
- 6-8 – The 400 prophets who gave Ahab the go-ahead were not prophets of the Lord. Micaiah was and he spoke truth from the Lord. Ahab preferred good news to truth.
- 40 – Micaiah was right. Ahab trying to conquer Ramoth-gilead was a bad idea. He dies in battle and Ahaziah takes over.
- 42-44 – It seems that Jehoshaphat intended to honor and worship God, but he failed in certain areas – leaving up certain allegiances to other gods and making an alliance with someone who did not honor God.
- Today’s reading is pretty much the best sermon ever preached.
- 16-25 – Paul sums up the grace of God and the failures of the Israelites from Jacob to John the Baptist.
- 26-41 – Paul explains how Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies the Jews read so frequently and longed to have fulfilled. He also warns them not to be the ones who fulfilled the prophecy that many people would not see and understand.
- So many of David’s psalms show his steadfastness in praising God despite his surroundings or circumstances.
- 17 – True, godly relationships are able to withstand difficulty and trials.
The Holy Spirit is often referred to as a burning fire or rushing wind. In Acts, the Holy Spirit is given to the early believers, so you can imagine that this book gets pretty rowdy. Just imagine a big group of new believers who are eager to spread the message of Christ as quickly as possible because they think he’s coming back soon. How eager would we be to share Christ if we had a similar mindset?
2 Samuel 20:14-22:20:
- 14-22 – Though Sheba’s fate is a little unsettling, the wise woman assures that her city is not attacked.
- 1-9 – It was not unusual for people to have to pay for the sins of their parents or grandparents. Saul’s offspring pay the ultimate price.
- 10-14 – Restoring Saul and Jonathan’s bones to their family to be buried where they belonged was an act to honor Saul.
- 2-20 – David’s song here is almost identical to Psalm 18. David gives glory to God for his victories and recalls his relationship with God over time.
- 1 – Acts is considered a second section of the gospel of Luke, most likely written by the same author.
- 11 – Jesus doesn’t die again after his resurrection. He simply ascends to heaven on a cloud and the disciples are told that this is how he will return as well. This is what we are to watch for.
- 12-14 – The disciples continued to pray and meet together after Jesus left.
- 21-26 – Matthias is chosen as the new 12th disciple to fill Judas’ place.
- Our pride often tells us we deserve or are capable of more than we’re called to. Humility allows us to wisely and graciously take what God gives us.
Apparently there are certain concepts that escape us if not repeated at least a thousand times. Proverbs seems to think so. Yet again, in today’s reading, we are reminded that wisdom is shown when we are patient and slow to act or speak. Foolishness is rash and fast moving and fails to think things through. I know I could stand to hear this message on repeat. How about you?
2 Samuel 1:1-2:11:
- 11-16 – It seems very harsh to us that David kills the young Amalekite who, seemingly, was merciful to a dying Saul. David had deep regard for Saul as the anointed one of God and did not see it as the Amalekite’s job to kill him.
- 1 – David was faithful in seeking God’s guidance before he would make moves.
- 4 – David is now officially king over Judah. He needed for Saul and his sons to die and to be anointed. Now both have happened.
- 4-7 – The men of Jabesh-gilead were the ones who took Saul’s body back from the Philistines after the Philistines tortured and dishonored it. David greatly appreciated this because it was honoring to God’s anointed, Saul.
- 8-11 – One son of Saul was still alive, Ish-bosheth. A portion of the Israelites follow Ish-bosheth as their king, but the majority follow David.
- 23-24 – Jesus knew that in order to conquer sin and for his mission to multiply, he had to die.
- 29 – This is the second recording of God speaking audibly directly to or about Jesus. The first is during his baptism.
- 34-36 – The people could not understand how he could be the Christ and die since their law said the Christ would live forever. They couldn’t reconcile the two. Jesus simply encourages them to follow him while he’s still there.
- 42-43 – A very convicting passage. Too often we care more about what others think than what pleases God.
- 22 – This verse is later applied to Jesus. He was rejected, but ultimately our faith was built on him.
- 24 – A popular, very quotable verse reminding us that each day is a gift from God and should be given back to him with praise.
- 28 – The continual theme in Proverbs of wisdom being slow and thoughtful is repeated here.
My mom heard me call my sister a “butthead” once. She told me never to say it again so I literally never did until I retold the story when I was in my 20’s. It was still difficult to say. Just because we sin once doesn’t mean we should continue on with that sin. It’s not as if that has to be your “thing”. Today’s 1 Samuel reading reminds us of why this is an important concept to understand.
1 Samuel 12:1-13:22:
- 1-5 – Some Bible scholars say that Samuel is the most boring character in Scripture. Basically, he never turns from God or is involved in a scandal of any sort. He is just steady. Not even his constituents can find fault with him.
- 8-14 – The Lord was continuously faithful in protecting and providing for the Israelites, but people are fickle, and when things got scary, they lost trust. They convinced themselves that a human king could protect them from other nations best.
- 20-22 – A good reminder that just because we’ve been sinful doesn’t mean we should keep on sinning and assume God is no longer for us. God redeems and restores over and over.
- 2 – There were many places called Gibeah in the area, that’s why Gibeah has been mentioned multiple times recently. Each Gibeah is qualified, for instance, this is Gibeah of Benjamin.
- 8-14 – Saul was not supposed to offer burnt offerings. That was the job of the priest. Saul was afraid of the Philistines and afraid that his supporters and army were abandoning him so he took matters into his own hands. Because of his lack of faith, his family line would not continue to be king.
- 14 – The description, “A man after God’s own heart” is only used about one person throughout Scripture, the next king: David.
- 19-22 – This sounds like a pretty difficult way to fight a battle.
- 2 – The Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of the Ingathering, is the last of the 7 festivals Jews were to observe. During it, Jews put together a small, quickly built hut to eat their meals in. It is a time of remembering when their ancestors lived in small, quickly built huts for 40 years in the desert. It was later used to celebrate the harvest.
- 10-13 – Jesus’ ministry caused a huge ruckus amongst the religious authorities. He was starting a movement that didn’t fit in their constraints and they felt threatened.
- 16-18 – A good way to check ourselves. Are we seeking glory for God or for ourselves – a good way to know whether or not you should continue what you’re doing.
- 26-28 – The people of Jerusalem who begin to question if Jesus really was the Christ or not raise the point that they know where Jesus came from, which means he can’t be the Christ. They think they know where he came from as in Mary’s womb and Nazareth his hometown. But truly, Jesus comes from God.
- 4 – This beautiful description of God’s great love and faithfulness inspired a Third Day song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEF7IoQ3eUk
- This psalm is a mixture of David’s praise to God and remembering the reasons he deserves praise and a plea for help in war. Often we ask for the help without offering the praise or thanksgiving.
- We often think perverse words or thoughts are all in fun or can be stopped at any time. Instead, these words and thoughts are the fruit of what we are putting into ourselves. From a good tree comes good fruit. From a bad tree comes bad fruit.
Do you find yourself saying the same thing over and over in prayer? It’s fine if there’s a specific, ongoing prayer request, but what about the fairly meaningless fillers? Do you tend to drone on and on without a whole lot of meaning or thought behind it? Why not try to pray like Psalm 98:1 encourages us to? Try to offer God a new praise for each new blessing you receive. You will end up feeling much more connected to him through prayer.
- 2-8 – The Midianites were a powerful fighting nation, but God only sent Gideon with 300 men to fight them because he did not want them to be able to say that they defeated Midian by their own power. This sounds extreme, but it is extremely easy to believe we succeed on our own power.
- 20-25 – The trumpets and jars were used to scare the Midianite army into fleeing and God blessed the Israelites’ swords as they pursued the Midianites.
- 4-9 – The men of Succoth and Penuel did not believe that Gideon would defeat the kings of Midian so they refused to help the Israelite army. Because of this Gideon explains that he will repay them once he overtakes the Midianite kings.
- 18-25 – It was custom for Pilate to release one prisoner at Passover. The crowds chose a murderer and asked that Jesus still be killed even though no fault was found in him.
- 27 – Not everyone had turned against Jesus. He still had a faithful following who were distraught over his impending death.
- 28-31 – Jesus is saying that if these people will reject and crucify Jesus when he’s on earth, how much less will they honor him when he’s not present. In a way he’s saying, it would be better to not even have children than to have to watch them dishonor Christ so greatly.
- 34 – Even when he’s about to be crucified, he’s still offering forgiveness.
- 43 – An unlikely candidate, this is the only person, other than the disciples, Jesus explicitly tells that they will be in heaven with him.
- 1 – Though God loves to hear our prayers, it seemingly would honor him more if we offer new praise with each blessing instead of a generic blanket prayer for all our blessings.
- 4-9 – We can all find a joyful song to sing in praise to God. Even the oceans and rivers have their way of praising. No matter what ours sounds like, we should make a joyful noise to God.
- 8 – Our wisdom is not simply for good looks or just convenient. Our wisdom should be used to discern where God is calling us and where we should go.
Today, in our reading from Luke, we encounter Herod…but in fact, it’s just one of several Herods involved in Jesus’ life at various times. Check out this resource, which will shed a little more light into the Herods.
- 8-10 – God reminds them of the good things he’s done for them and that they still disobeyed him. The Israelites seem to have a short memory when it comes to who is worthy of their worship.
- 13-14 – Gideon was young enough that he had not seen God’s power and miracles. Because of the Israelites’ unfaithfulness he had only seen Israel forsaken by God. He, understandably, struggled to trust that God could overtake the Midianites who oppressed them at the time.
- 24 – Many times in Scripture, when someone would experience God’s power or goodness, they would name that space after what they had experienced. Gideon names this “The Lord is Peace” or “Jehovah Shalom”.
- 28-31 – Gideon’s dad Joash makes a great argument. If Jerubbaal is truly a god, he shouldn’t need you to defend him. Certainly, this argument saved his son’s life.
- 36-40 – This may sound like Gideon was testing God, which we are not supposed to do. Gideon asks humbly for God to confirm that his plan is to save Israel through Gideon.
- 54-62 – Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times and though Peter was certain he wouldn’t, he did. Though Peter gets a bad wrap for this, note that he was the only disciple who followed Jesus to his trial.
- 66-71 – The church leaders were doing all they could to assure Jesus could be charged with blasphemy. Though he never called himself the Son of God in this passage, he says enough for them to jump on.
- 1 – Pilate was a low-level Roman leader. He was basically like the mayor of Longview, TX.
- 7 – This is not the same Herod that wanted to kill him when he was born.
- 6 – If you can’t think of a reason to praise God, simply praise him for creating you.
- 8 – The Israelites’ sins at Meribah and Massah both happened as they wandered in the desert. Most of the Israelites’ history and testaments tended to refer back to their 40 years of wandering.
- 10-11 – The Israelites sinned while in the desert causing them not to enter the Promised Land until later generations could enter instead.