Friday, May 26, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 26, 2017

Today's Reading:

Romans 1:16-32

1 Samuel 9:1-10:16

Psalm 55

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In Romans 1:16, there is a profound verse:
"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
To not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ means that you live for Him, even in times when others think you're foolish for doing so. It means that you follow Christ, even when you know it's going to cost you something. To not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ means that you stand faithful to Him no matter the consequences. That takes real courage! 

I first heard the following story shared by a preacher as an illustration. It made such an impression on me that I would like to share it with you. This story powerfully demonstrates what it means to not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ:

Even though few today in American sacrifice much at all for their faith in Christ, there are stories in history that tell us amazing accounts of those who have suffered because of their faith. One such story took place in 328 A.D.. in a city high in the icy mountains of Armenia 

    
It was a bitterly cold winter and in the middle of that winter an order came from the Roman emperor that every man, woman, and child under the rule of his empire must bow down to him as a god. Now there was a powerful force of Roman soldiers in that Armenian city known as the “Thundering Legion”, and their reputation as a powerful military force was known through all the Roman Empire. But the emperor was not satisfied with their military service - he wanted each soldier to bow down to him.  
    
When the time came for each soldier to bow down, 40 could not. They were faithful soldiers, but more importantly, they were Christians - they could not obey the emperor's order to make him their god. They said, “We can only worship the one true God.”     
 
Well, when the word of these 40 Christian soldiers refusing to bow down and worship him was received by the emperor, his command back was simple, “Bow down to me, reject your Christian God, or die”. But the 40 Christian Roman soldiers did not bow down - so the decision was made that they would die. But how should they die? Should they be fed to the hungry lions? Should they be burned at the stake? These were both terrible ways to die, but an even more cruel death was prescribed - they were to be frozen to death in the bitter cold winter.   
   
So they took the 40 soldiers to a frozen lake in the middle of a terrible storm. They stripped them of all their clothing and left them to freeze to death.   
      
But the general didn't want to lose these 40 good soldiers. He said, “Simply bow down to the emperor and save your life?” But they did not. The soldiers taunted and laughed at them – “soon you'll be back; you will bow down”. But the laughing stopped when these 40 Christians bravely walked barefoot across the icy freezing lake.      

Well, through the night the soldiers lit a fire and cooked food to tempt the Christians to give up. But the Christians prayed to God to make them brave, and they began to shout, “Here die 40 men for Christ”.   
  
The freezing bitter cold night went on until finally, the cold was too much for one of the men. He staggered back to the fire and agreed to denounce his God and to bow down to the emperor. But the remaining 39 Christians would not give in, even though they were literally freezing to death.

Then, amazingly, something happened that they could not believe - one of the Roman soldiers sitting by the fire, having watched the bravery and courage and faith on these dying Christians, he stood before the general and uttered these words, “I will take that man's place - I will be a Christian.” As the general watched in amazement, this Roman soldier removed his clothing and walked onto the icy lake to join the 39.     

Well the Roman soldiers sat by that fire all night long and the last thing they said they could remember hearing through the howl of that terrible freezing winter storm was the now 40 Christian men shouting, “Here die 40 men for Christ”. In the morning, sadly, there were 40 frozen bodies; men who have sacrificed for their faith and belief in Christ. (Story from the archives of Jerry Stewart - Vision Productions)      

Their slogan and song resonates down through the portals of time, impacting our hearts even today:
                             “Here die 40 men for Christ”. 
 
What would you have done? I asked myself the same question...  The answer must be that we would not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ no matter the cost!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 25, 2017

Today's Reading:

Romans 1:1-15

1 Samuel 8

Psalm 54

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In 1 Samuel 8, we find the account of how Israel was dissatisfied with having Yahweh as their leader. They demanded a king to be placed over them. Through the prophet Samuel, God warned the Children of Israel of the many dangers and drawbacks to selecting a king. But, in the end, the people insisted. 

King Saul was anointed to be their king and there were a total of 42 kings and 1 queen (who reigned instead of the king). As Steve Shirley researched and documents, of these kings who reigned over God's people, the Bible says ALL of the kings of Israel were evil. Among the kings of Judah, 12 were evil and 8 were good (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah)!

Here's a synopsis of how it went:
  1. King Saul ruled over all the 12 tribes of Israel for 40 years.
  2. Ishbosheth ruled over Israel for 2 years, while David ruled Judah during a brief divide after Saul's death.
  3. David ruled over all the 12 tribes for 40 years (after Ishbosheth was assassinated).
  4. Solomon ruled over all 12 tribes of Israel for 40 years.
After Solomon's reign ended, the kingdom divided into what became known as the Southern Kingdom (Judah and Benjamin: but simply called Judah) and the Northern Kingdom (the remaining 10 tribes: called Israel). This resulted in a string of 19 kings ruling over Israel and 19 kings (plus one queen) ruling over Judah. I will list them in order, with the number of years they ruled in parenthesis. 
 
Kings Of IsraelKings Of Judah
1. Jeroboam 1 (22 yrs)1. Rehoboam (17 yrs)
2. Nadab (2 yrs)2. Abijam (3 yrs)
3. Baasha (24 yrs)3. Asa (41 yrs)
4. Elah (2 yrs)4. Jehoshaphat (25 yrs)
5. Zimri (7 days)5. Jehoram (8 yrs)
6. Omri (12 yrs) ***6. Ahaziah (1 yr)
7. Ahab (22 yrs)7. Athaliah (Queen) (6 yrs)
8. Ahaziah (2 yrs)8. Joash (40 yrs)
9. Jehoram (Joram)(12 yrs)9. Amaziah (29 yrs)
10. Jehu (28 yrs)10. Azariah (Uzziah)(52 yrs)
11. Jehoahaz (17 yrs)11. Jotham (16 yrs)
12. Jehoash (16 yrs)12. Ahaz (16 yrs)
13. Jeroboam 2 (41 yrs)13. Hezekiah (29 yrs)
14. Zachariah (6 mos)14. Manasseh (55 yrs)
15. Shallum (1 mo)15. Amon (2 yrs)
16. Menahem (10 yrs)16. Josiah (31 yrs)
17. Pekhiah (2 yrs)17. Jehoahaz (3 mos)
18. Pekah (20 yrs)18. Jehoiakim (11 yrs)
19. Hoshea (9 yrs)19. Jehoiachin (3 mos)

20. Zedekiah (11 yrs)

      (Chart by Steve Shirley, Jesusalive.cc)

The kings who were "good" (meaning they led the people in worshiping Yahweh and destroyed idolatry) are listed in red above. That means that only 19% of the rulers over God's people were godly leaders! If a student scored a 19% on a test, it would be considered a failing grade. In fact anything below 60% is a failing grade! No wonder prophet Samuel tried to talk the people out of having a king!

But while the story of the unfaithful leadership is tragic, the story of how the people of Israel followed their leaders down the primrose-path to Hell is even more so. Did it justify compromises in the supposed people of God that their leaders were ungodly? No! Was idolatry in the people excused before God, because their king was doing it and supporting idolatry in the land? Certainly not!

What about today? Are the statistics for godly leaders better today than they were back then? Honestly, they are worse - not better. But unlike Israel who followed the leadership of their kings, we are to be faithful to God, like Daniel, while living in today's Babylon.

So, today, I'd like to share with you a powerful perspective from the courageous life of Daniel, who remained faithful to God through 4 kings.

The following is excerpted from the Benham brothers' powerful book Living Among Lions:
(In Daniel we find an example of) courage to stand for what was right in a culture that rewarded people for doing the opposite... Daniel's friends had one choice: bow or burn. Daniel himself had one choice: live a lie or die in the lions' den.
They all chose to remain firm in their faith - true to their convictions that defined their lives and glorified the God of their fathers.
In 605 BC, their nation changed, but they did not. Their surroundings shifted to an alien place - geographically, morally, and spiritually. But they chose to remain unchanged, unaffected, and unashamed.
The people of Judah, Daniel's homeland, had rejected God. They removed His boundaries, so He had to remove their blessings. Babylon arose and took many of the Jewish people into captivity. Daniel was among those taken from his homeland to Babylon. God did not spare him from exile. But, years before, his heavenly Father had captured his heart. So when Daniel's nation changed, his relationship with God did not...
Eternity's perspective proves these men (Daniel and his friends) right and upholds their decisions. Daniel and his friends refused to operate strategically or seek to survive in safety. Instead, they lived supernaturally, choosing to thrive in the Spirit. Daniel knew his God was the Ruler over the realm of mankind, and the earth belonged to Him. Daniel's job was simply to live faithfully - even in the face of adversity. His life encourages us that no matter how dire circumstances may seem or how opposed to God our culture becomes, God is always in control. Whatever life throws our way, we will not just survive; we will thrive! (Living Among Lions, pp xvi-xvii)


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 24, 2017

Today's Reading:

Acts 28:17-31

1 Samuel 6-7

Psalm 53

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In today's society, one of the biggest challenges Christians face is helping others believe in the reality of God's existence. Like it says in Psalm 53:1

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.
 Actually, as  Scripture tells us, the way sinners ignore or discount the reality of God is nothing new. The whole world foolishly believed God wasn't real in time of the Flood. But God would have us turn from our foolishness, while there is yet time. Sodom and Gomorrah are left as examples of the end of such foolishness. 


Have you ever wondered what Sodom and Gomorrah were like? Consider the following archaeological video and revisit this story as you visually stroll down the main streets, now preserved as a mute testimony in ash.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZKBHyIBrHA

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 23, 2017

Today's Reading:

Acts 28:1-16

1 Samuel 4-5

Psalm 52

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Have you ever thought about the tongue. It's such a little member of the body, but many Bible writers rued its destructive power. This was the subject of James' lament, in chapter 3. And it is something which the Psalmist also wrote about in today's chapter:
James 3:5-10  "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of Hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be."



Psalm 52:2-4 "The tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah. Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue."
Yet as overwhelming and impossible as it seems to us, by the power and grace of God, it is possible to tame the tongue. Scripture makes this abundantly clear in the dynamic description of the 144,000. First, the Revelator made it plain that the 144,000 were "redeemed" from among mankind. This means that they were sinners for whom Christ died. But it goes on to say that God is able to take these former sinners and transform them so completely that they are "without fault" and their mouths no longer speak any "guile". What a testimony of what Almighty God can do with a surrendered soul!
Revelation 14:4-5  "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.  And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." 
So, what James said about the tongue being impossible for any person to tame merely meant that we cannot accomplish this task by our fleshly strength or by sheer willpower. How, then, can we tame it?

Christ gave us a powerful key to finding victory over the power of the tongue. He said that our tongues naturally speak about whatever is in our hearts.
Matthew 12:34  "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
The tongue merely gives voice to the things we keep in our hearts. Thinking about this causes me to ask from God that changed heart, each and every day. Today, and every day, let us join the Psalmist in praying:
Psalm 19:14  "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Yahweh, my strength, and my Redeemer." 
While the meditation of my heart is acceptable in His Sight, the words of my mouth will be under the control of His Spirit! That is wonderful news. And this is the key to lastingly taming the tongue. It all starts with a new heart. Thankfully, God is in the Business of giving heart transplants:
Psalm 51:10 & 15 "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me... O Yahweh, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise."   
 As we ask, we will receive. For He has promised!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 22, 2017



Today's Reading:

Acts 27:13-44

1 Samuel 3

Psalm 51

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Today I want to focus on Samuel. What a beautiful story of a young boy who could say - and mean - "Speak, Yah, for Thy servant heareth Thee." That is where we should all be! With that goal in mind, I'd like to share what it takes to speak so God will listen and listen so God will speak. Every Christian needs Effective Prayer.


Prayer is not only the vital link of communication between God and His people, it is also the breath of Heaven. While studying from the Scriptures is spiritual eating, prayer is spiritual breathing. Understanding this helps us gain perspective on how important it is to have a vital prayer life. With it, we are truly alive in Christ!   The Bible tells us that effective prayers are strong against the enemy, accomplishing much. “...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” James 5:16. It is important to have an effective prayer life. Prayer is like breathing - spiritually.

Isn’t all prayer equal in power and effect? No. As we read in James 5:16, a righteous man’s fervent prayers are effectual. But when we continue to do evil, God does not respond with equal power in answer to our prayers.


1 Peter 3:12 “For the  Eyes of the Lord  are  over the righteous, and  His  ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”


When we read that a righteous person’s prayers are effective, most of us just give up the idea of having an effective prayer life. We aren’t righteous! So, apparently the goal of effective prayer is beyond our reach. If this were true, no human would have ever had an effective prayer life. Every man, woman, and child on this planet, who has ever lived has committed sin (done evil), as it says in Romans  3:10 & 23: 


“... There is none righteous, no, not one… ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”



Yet, Esther prayed and God turned the heart of a king; Daniel prayed and God stopped the lions’ mouths; Elijah prayed and fire fell from Heaven; and numerous others have prayed effectively and with power.

Righteousness is not earned, it is imputed by the life and death of our Saviour. This means that Christ’s quality of living a righteous and obedient life is accounted to the record of any sinner who claims His salvation by faith.


1 Corinthians 1:30-31  “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in Yahweh.”



The righteousness of Christ is a free gift to all. But, this does not mean that everyone is made righteous. We have a part to play in receiving it. The Bible tells us that if we will repent from and confess our past sins, that we will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. (1 John 1:9 and Isaiah 61:10.)

Repentance for our past sins involves us humbling ourselves before God. We are to wholeheartedly seek after Him, truly be sorry for our rebellion, and turn away from our sinful attitudes, thought-patterns, and behaviors. When we do this, Christ’s righteousness clothes us, and He establishes an open prayer-line. This is how to have effective prayers (2 Chronicles 7:14).



It is only when we don’t fully seek God and repent that we can’t pray with power. But we cannot afford to keep limping along with  weak, milk-toast, mamby-pamby, prayers. It’s time to become effectual prayer warriors! God wants His people to pray with such power that even the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matthew 16:18)! Such prayers transform lives and glorify God.

But what if you’re too busy to pray? Prioritize and MAKE time for it! Get up at 4:00 or 5:00 AM, if necessary, in order to have a vital prayer life. You cannot be a real Christian, fully alive in Christ, without breathing (praying)! Christ, our Example in all things (1 Peter 2:21), had a vital prayer life. He would often spend entire nights in prayer. It was from this prayer time that the Saviour was strengthened to minister and to meet Satan’s temptations without sin. If Christ needed to pray, how much more do you and I need to do it? To help in the process of prioritizing, consider what it means to be too busy to pray:

B = Burdened

U = Under

S = Satan's

Y = Yoke 

For a powerful perspective on prayer, I'd like to share with you a talk by Jim Cymbala called, "My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer". It's about 53 minutes...  but life-changingly worth the watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40F5wMbjugE.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 21, 2017

Today's Reading:

Acts 27:1-12

1 Samuel 2:11-36

Psalm 50

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Again today, I would like to focus upon a few key verses from Psalm. In Psalm 50, we find the great power and all-encompassing Ownership of our Creator extolled.

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills... Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me... Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
Think about it...  How often and how consistently do you praise and extol God for Who He is? It is very human to find it easier to praise God when everything is going "well" for us. But when things get tough, we tend to forget to glorify Him still. In fact, sometimes we do more than just forget to glorify Him. Sometimes we complain and question His love for us. But it is when we "order our conversations aright" (praise God and remain submitted to Him whatever the cost) that God is free to shew us His salvation from all hopelessness and despair.

We can praise God for His Creatorship and Ownership of us. He does own the cattle on a thousand hills (that is a Hebrew expression meaning that God owns everything). And God doesn't make mistakes. Consider that as you watch the powerful testimony on this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ1OEi2OhSU 

Daily Bible Reading - May 20, 2017

Today's Reading:

Acts 26:19-32

1 Samuel 1:1-2:10

Psalm 49

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In Psalm 49, we find a powerful message about courage to stand faithful to God in spite of the fear of how the wicked might react. It is a chapter about total surrender, about laying aside one's earthly gain denying present pleasures for future benefits.

As I read Psalm 49, I thought of the message of the Benham brothers. My family and I were blessed to hear these brothers speak at the ATI conference in Big Sandy, Texas a little over a year ago. 

So, today, I'm going to let them share with you how its possible - even vital - to stand for the principles of Scripture, especially in a culture which increasingly rejects them.

Let us be faithful, not falling among those who may find many riches, but because of their compromises, when they die, they can carry nothing of it away (Psalm 49:17). Instead, let us be among those of the Faith Chapter, in Hebrews 11 whose "works do follow them." God bless!