Do you have any Scripture memorized? If not, and even if you have some, I’d encourage you to do your best to memorize Scripture. Today’s Proverb indirectly encourages it. There are probably songs you can start singing at the drop of a hat, or movie lines you can quote…that’s because you have them memorized and they’re on the tip of your tongue. When we treat Scripture like this, we are blessed through the comfort, hope, and joy Scripture brings and we can be a blessing by sharing it with others.
- 1-14 – Though not the most exciting message, this aims our sites at death because, ultimately, that’s where we’re all headed. The section also lets us know that joy is always accompanied by sorrow. God made both and we can’t really have one without the other.
- 19-22 – These verses make it clear that righteousness in humanity is very relative.
- 27-29 – In biblical poetry, women tend to be personified as either tempting seductresses or virginal and pure. This is most likely what’s going on here as Solomon explains the temptation of folly in the face of wisdom.
- 1-7 – Solomon continually retorts that what we achieve on earth is somewhat insignificant because we all die. But be sure to read through to the end to learn his final conclusion.
2 Corinthians 7:8-16:
- 9 – Paul is ok with the Corinthians feeling a little bit of pain because it led to the ultimate good of repentance.
- 13-16 – Though much of the content of Paul’s letters was rebuke and instruction, he delighted when new believers acted in Christ-like ways. This is why both he and Titus rejoiced.
- 1-8 – The psalmist calls on people to give God praise because of the great protection God had offered them in past situations.
- 9-14 – The reflections of who God is and what he has done cause the people to share of his goodness for generations to come.
- When we have words of wisdom on our lips, they are the ones that come out of our mouths first. This is the same reason we want to have Scripture memorized.
There was a show on Nickelodeon called “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” in the 90s. I couldn’t watch it then and I feel quite certain I probably can’t watch it now. I hate scary things. But our psalm today reminds us how to conquer fear – seek the Lord. Elsewhere in Scripture it says, “perfect love drives out all fear” and frequently when messengers of the Lord show up they’re first words are “fear not”. So, what are you so afraid of?
- 22-31 – The Israelites conquer several nations and have large growth in their population. Both of these fulfill God’s promises to their ancestors.
- 32-33 – This third of a shekel was in addition to the taxes already put in place by former rulers. This was above and beyond.
1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13:
- 19-23 – Paul found ways to relate to all people so he could better present the gospel to them. This should not be misunderstood that he took on other people’s sins to relate to them.
- 24-27 – If athletes are willing to put their body through intense training to win a race, particularly when only one person wins the race, isn’t it worth it for Paul to discipline himself in order to share the gospel?
- 13 – This is the verse often misquoted and misunderstood as saying, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” Read it again. That’s not what it says. This is regarding temptation and it simply says he will give you a way out of the temptation when you face it.
- 4 – Clear instructions on how to handle fear. Seek the Lord.
- 8-10 – We can see and experience God’s provision in so many ways.
- This sounds similar to the gospel story regarding Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31.
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.
There are a number of passages, like the one in today’s 1 Corinthians reading, which have been misinterpreted as condoning practices we don’t generally think God would condone. Here it is marrying a non-believer. In other areas of Scripture it’s divorce or owning slaves. These passages should not be read as God condoning the behavior, rather as guidelines for people who are already engaging in these practices. I.e. If you’ve already married a non-believer, don’t divorce them. Instead, act like this for a chance to bless them.
- Nehemiah was originally combined with Ezra as one book.
- 3 – The walls of Jerusalem were broken down from when the temple was destroyed and the Israelites were taken into exile.
- 8-11 – Nehemiah reminds God of his promise that he would always allow people to return to him even if they had strayed. This is a good reminder for many of us.
- 11 – The cupbearer was a very important position. This person made sure the king’s drink was not poisoned or tampered with in any way. This person had to be very trustworthy. In Genesis, Joseph makes friends with the kings cupbearer who is imprisoned because the king thought he was trying to harm him.
- 1-8 – These were big asks. Even being sad in a king’s presence could get you in major trouble, but then also asking to be gone and for him to write special letters for you. The king, here, is being kinder than he had to be, but it says that’s because the hand of the Lord was on Nehemiah.
1 Corinthians 7:1-24:
- 1-5 – This may seem like an odd section of Scripture, but it is encouraging us to have regular sex with our spouses. Withholding sex can lead to all kinds of sins and temptations for both partners.
- 12-16 – This is not encouragement to marry an unbeliever, but instruction that if you are already married to an unbeliever to stick with them because you could be the conduit through which they come to faith.
- 22-24 – Here David makes an interesting point. He explains that in a panicked situation he assumed God was not with him, but recognized that God did, in fact, hear his cries. With this he encourages others to wait on the Lord.
- We always have reason to be humble because we are not God.
There are silly things we are tempted by like donuts and paying too much for a pair of jeans we don’t need. But today’s psalm deals with more serious temptations and, unfortunately, they’re ones we face just as often. These temptations entice us to trust them more than we trust God. These are things like, our own strength, money, success, etc. Though they’re sometimes hard to recognize, what tempts you to trust it in stead of God?
1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4:
- 18-20 – Though this just feels like a big list of names, it’s interesting to see names you recognize from stories. Bezalel, for instance, was one of the skilled workers who helped create the tabernacle.
- 1-9 – Yes, David had a lot of sons and a lot of wives. Notice that Solomon, who became the next king after David is way down on the list of sons.
- 22-27 – It seems as if Felix might come to faith based on Paul’s teachings, but it doesn’t seem that he does. Instead he leaves Paul in prison, which means he has now been in prison for 2 years.
- 5-8 – These verses hit hard the idea that we are tempted to trust in many other things but our true rest and comfort come only from God.
- 17 – This verse backs up the adage that there are always two sides to every story. Withhold judgment of decisions until you have heard from both parties.
It’s hard to be a faithful Christian in our society. We are bombarded by temptations and our culture does not lend itself to faithfulness. We are often teased for being prudes or are simply excluded because we might judge others.
Undoubtedly, this is difficult. However, this week, we will read about Paul and several of his companions who had a truly difficult road. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and more. He frequently faced outright opposition. And yet, he was determined to spread the gospel to anyone who would listen. He would even say what an honor it was to face persecution for the sake of Christ.
This week, as you read Acts, thank God for the challenges you face in being faithful. If you continually pursue Christ these will eventually prove to be strengthening.
Everyone has a “bad idea friend”. They’re the friend who is always talking you into things that get you in trouble, cause you to make bad investments, and ultimately make life more difficult. Unfortunately, Rehoboam chose to listen to his “bad idea friends” instead of wise counsel. He had an opportunity to be a great king, but bad ideas get the best of him. It’ll make you think twice about who you take advice from.
1 Kings 11:1-12:19:
- 1-3 – Solomon knew the law and knew the reasoning for the law, but he was unable to withstand his desires and ultimately, it led to his downfall.
- 4-8 – David sinned, but never worshipped or offered any sort of allegiance to other gods. Solomon divided his heart between many gods, this breaks the first and most important commandment.
- 11-13 – God promised that David’s line would be on the throne as long as they were faithful to him. Solomon has already failed there. God had such love for David, though, that he allows his line to stay partially in leadership.
- 36 – It was important for David’s line to stay on the throne because Jesus eventually comes from David’s line.
- 40 – Clearly Solomon had strayed far from God if he was willing to oppose God’s will even to the point of killing God’s chosen future king.
- 6-8 – Rehoboam had a chance to be a beloved king. He only needed to listen to the wise counsel of the older men and lighten the load of the people.
- 8-15 – Rehoboam, instead, listens to his bonehead friends and chooses to increase the difficulty of the people. Rehoboam’s sin ultimately causes the split of the kingdom, which, over time, causes all kinds of problems and makes them so vulnerable that both parts of the kingdom are conquered.
- 2 – “The Way” is what early Christians were called.
- 3-16 – Certainly there were many people who persecuted the early Christians. God had a specific purpose for Saul – to minister to the gentiles – so he converted him dramatically.
- 20-22 – Saul’s conversion was so dramatic because he was well known for persecuting Christians. We know him as Paul, a faithful disciple, so it’s easy for us to believe what he says about practicing our faith, but those who had heard of him previously would have had a difficult time.
- This Psalm indicates humility and reliance, like a young child, on God.
- This proverb seems to describe the actions of a bully and how they will not prosper.
Welcome to John! He starts his gospel off with a bang. Clearly referring to the beginning of Genesis, he starts off with, “In the beginning…”. John’s gospel, from the beginning, and throughout the entire book, is very different from the other three gospels. While each gospel has a specific purpose, John’s is stated at the end. He explains that this gospel was written so that we would believe that Jesus was the Messiah. So…read carefully.
- 1 – Being the son of a prostitute was shameful in their culture, but it’s clear that God is willing to use him anyway since he was a mighty warrior. You may also notice that people’s tribes are mentioned quite a bit in this book. Because the Israelites had mixed with other people groups so heavily, it was important to differentiate who were actual Israelites by mentioning their tribe.
- 24 – Ancient cultures believed that the side with the mightier god would win a battle. This is why Jephthah calls out the Amorites god, Chemosh.
- 30-40 – Note that God does not ask for this sacrifice from Jephthah, he foolishly offers it up and it costs him the life of his daughter. This is why we are to give and do what God asks of us, not decide for ourselves what God wants.
- John’s gospel is different from the other 3, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels. They all draw from each other, while John’s gospel does not as much. John’s gospel is where we find the “I am” statements. These are statements where Jesus says, “I am…” and reveals something about himself.
- 1 – “The Word” is Christ. This explains to us that Christ has been present from the beginning. He did not enter into existence at birth, but always been just as God the Father has always been.
- 6-8 – This refers to John the Baptist. Many wondered if he was the one they had waited for, but he was not, he simply came to prepare the way for Christ.
- 9-13 – Christ came first to save the Jews, his own people, but many did not recognize him or believe that he was the Messiah. All who did were made children of God.
- 14 – “The Word became flesh” explains the coming of Christ as a human. Instead of the birth narrative we read in Matthew and Luke, this explains the coming of Christ.
- 17 – Moses gave the law. Grace and truth came through Jesus. The law did not make room for grace, but God offered that through Christ.
- 20-23 – John does not claim to be anything he’s not, but quotes Isaiah, a verse the religious leaders would have certainly known, and explains that he’s preparing the way for the Messiah to come.
- This Psalm of David would be an excellent one to read or recite when faced with temptation or to start your day with the intent of living righteously. “I will ponder the way that is blameless.” “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.”
- 14 – There are a number of references in the New Testament to bad sources only producing bad fruit and good sources only producing good fruit. We cannot expect to produce great things if our hearts are not great as well.
Temptations are all around us. They’re so sneaky that at times, we don’t even know we’re being tempted. And though sin can be avoided, temptation cannot always be, but it is incumbent upon those of us who are believers to not create or introduce temptations to others. Instead, it is our job to lead others closer to Christ.
- 14-15 – Note that the Israelites and Joshua did not ask God what they were supposed to do in this situation.
- 19 – This is the reason the gospels say to “let your yes be yes and your no be no” and not to swear by God or anything else. They’ve made a promise with the Hivites that was not sanctioned by God and could cause them to have to disobey God’s instructions later.
- 12-15 – Sometimes it is hard for us to believe in some of the miracles described in the Bible, but we are told that with God all things are possible and we know that he is not constrained by the same things we are.
- 19-31 – We are often consumed with our own comfort on earth, but this story clearly tells us that comfort on earth is fleeting. It is our job to help comfort the afflicted while on earth and then enjoy comfort in heaven.
- 1 – Temptations are inevitable in life, but far be it for us to provide those temptations for others, particularly those who are earlier in their faith journey.
- 3-4 – We are not to judge, but we are to lovingly call people out for their sins. We are also called to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
As has been a continual theme throughout the first 5 books of the Bible, known as the Torah, God asks the Israelites to go to any and every length to avoid temptations that would draw them towards other gods. We think some of them sound extreme, but we could probably stand to cut a few things out of our lives that tempt us away from God.
- 1-3 – We often wonder if God puts us through tests. Though our theology would lean towards “no”, this is an example of the Israelites’ faith being tested through false prophets.
- 6-11 – The Israelites were instructed to go to any length to not be led away from God. We could probably cut certain things out of our lives in order to avoid being tempted by other gods.
- The rules Moses is telling the Israelites are not new ones. He is reiterating ones that were given in Leviticus.
- 28-29 – Their tithe was used to take care of those who could not take care of themselves.
- 1 – The 7th year was known as the Jubilee when all debts were forgiven and possessions were returned to their rightful owner.
- 6 – It was important for the Israelites not to borrow from anyone else so that no one else could boast that they had contributed to Israel’s wealth or prosperity. God alone was the giver of their blessings.
- 13 – This continual reminder should keep Israel from ever having pride in their own accomplishments but in God’s alone.
- 48 – Here Jesus attributes the woman’s healing to her own faith. Sometimes he would attribute the miracle to the person and sometimes to God. What makes this difference?
- Jesus tells Jairus and his wife not to tell of the miracle he performed but he did not tell the bleeding woman not to tell anyone.
- 20-21 – Often we feel alone and desperate when we are at our lowest, but this reminds us that God raises up again in time.