Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 31, 2017

Today's Reading:

Romans 6

1 Samuel 15

Psalm 60

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Today, I will share a bit of Bible history - the backstory - of 1 Samuel 15. In 1 Samuel 15, Israel is up against the Amalekites...  But Israel's war with the Amalekites goes back a long ways. From the time of Rebekah's pregnancy with twin sons, there has been a war going on between them. During her pregnancy, Rebekah noticed that the unborn babies didn't get along - even in the womb! In fact, the situation with strife between her unborn sons was unusual enough that Rebekah asked God about it.
Genesis 25:22-23  "And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of (Yahweh). And (Yahweh) said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." 
Since Biblical genealogists record that Jacob and Esau were born around 1841 BC, and king Saul began his reign over Israel in about 1100 BC, it is sobering to say that the struggle between Esau and Jacob - through their descendants - had been going on for 741 years, by time of the story recorded in 1 Samuel 15!

The Amalekites were part of this ancient struggle because Amalek, the father of the Amalekite nation, was the grandson of Esau.
Genesis 36:12  "And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau's son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau's wife."
By the time Saul was king, the cup of iniquity for the Amalekites was full. God commanded Saul to completely wipe them out, leaving no survivors!

1 Samuel 15:3   "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."
It seems a bit out of Character for our loving and merciful God to command the extinction of a whole nation! How can this be? Yahweh knows the end from the beginning. And He knew the tremendous threat that the heathen Amalekites posed to Israel. But Saul thought he knew better than God. He spared the Amalekite royal family (king Agag and his pregnant queen). In short, Saul disobeyed God's command. And the Amalekite people continued to grow and thrive. Here's the Big Picture, which God knew when He commanded Saul to fully eradicate this threat.

1) King David would have to contend with the Amalekites throughout his reign as well. But it went much farther than that...

2) Some 400 years later, in the time of Esther, the Amalekites would push Israel to near extermination. This was nearly accomplished through Haman, who the Bible says was an Agagite (Esther 3:1). In other words, Haman was an Amalekite descended from the royal line of king Agag, who Saul failed to destroy. (The prophet Samuel later killed king Agag, but his pregnant queen survived, as history records. The Bible supports the historical record of the pregnant queen escaping from Saul... For how else could Haman have descended from king Agag?). God thwarted this Amalekite threat through queen Esther. But the threat didn't stop there...

3) The Amalekite people continue to be a threat to Israel, even today. Their descendants, now called Palestinians, are only part of the threat. The real cause for concern is that the pagan, Amalekite belief system gave birth to a powerful religion which today threatens all followers of Christ - Islam.

What a compelling prequel and sequel to the story we read in 1 Samuel 15! Considering all this, I am thankful to say that God is still at work. 

But in spite of Saul's failure, God is still working - bringing good out of this situation. Today, one of the greatest ways the Almighty stops the threat of the Amalekites, is that He reveals the Truth to them. God is calling His people out of Islam - rescuing His people from the ancient lies of Amalek.
Consider the inspiring and powerful testimony of such a one, named Kamal Saleem:

Not only is it wonderful to see what God does in the saving of souls, but another point bears note from this story. The children of Islam tend to serve their Allah with such a level of devotion that it puts most Christians to shame. Not only do we want to be working to reach all nations and peoples for Christ, but also - may we do it with the devotion and commitment of these Muslims (just not with the hate or tactics, of course)! 

Can you imagine how the world would be changed if every Christian served our loving God with the same level of devotion that a Muslim serves? Wielding love instead of hate and the life-changing power of Christ instead of deception - such Christians would change the world.



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 30, 2017

Today's Reading:

Romans 5

1 Samuel 14

Psalm 59

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In Romans 5, there is a powerful statement which puts the Sacrifice of Christ in better perspective. When someone gives his (or her) life for another, that person is called a hero. But let's face it, a hero gives his life expecting that the life he's saving is worthy of being saved! Would a hero jump in harm's way to protect a hardened criminal? Probably not!

Yet, Christ died for you and for me, while we were still sinners - in other words, He gave His life in the extremity of our unworthiness:
"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
One of the most beautiful presentations of this concept is given in the stars - specifically in the scales and its family of constellations. 
The Scales, are today called Libra, which means "the weighing" in Latin. In Hebrew, Libra is called Mozanaim – “the scales, the weighing” In Arabic, it is Al Zubena – “purchase, redemption gain”.

The Hebrew name for this constellation appears 10 times in the Bible. Here are a few examples, which show the fuller meaning and application of the Scales:

1) Scales were used for purchasing things in a trustworthy manner, as it says in Leviticus 19:35-36. 
Leviticus 19:35-36  “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.  Just balances (mozanaim, "the scales"), just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am Yahweh your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

2) Scales were used to determine righteous weights in commerce, and became a symbol of demonstrating a righteous cause, as it says in Job 6:2. 

3) Scales were used in judgment as well, as it says in Daniel chapter 5. In the context, Daniel interpretted the message of the bloodless Hand, which had written the following message on the wall of Belshazzar's palace:

All of these aspects of the scale are part of this starry message in the constellation Mozanaim. Our lives are weighed in the Balance of Divine Judgment. Also, there is a "commercial" transaction going on for the Redemption of each soul, as it says in 1 Corinthians 7:23, "ye are bought with a price..."

Let's look at the full message of this constellation through the individual star names as well (the original Hebrew star names). 

The star in the top, center part of the scale was named Zuben al Genubi, which means: "the price deficient". This is a reference to the fact that when we are weighed in the Scales of God's Righteous Judgment, being sinful, we don't measure up! This is a sobering position in which to find ourselves, to say the least. But the star picture has more to tell us. Let's look at the meaning of each of the main stars in Mozanaim (the Scales). The star being named will be brightest in each picture, for clarity.

In summary, the Scales (Mozanaim) give us a reminder of the Justice of the Almighty. While one star is named for the verdict: "the price deficient", which means that we are weighed and found "wanting", the star on the other side tells us that there is a "price that covers" our deficiency. And what is that price?

One of the three decans (the decans are like the constellation family) of Libra (Mozanaim) is Crux, anciently called Adom. This constellation is also known as the Southern Cross because it appears in the sky in the Southern Hemisphere. Adom is Hebrew for “the cutting off” - a reference to the Death of Christ.

Not only is this constellation depicting the Cross upon which Christ died, it is also depicting the Hebrew letter Tav. In Paleo-Hebrew (Paleo-Hebrew is the oldest and most original form of Hebrew), the Alef looks like the head of an ox and the Tav looks like a cross (see the letters on the far right below):

The Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The Tav is the last letter. The Messiah Yahshua said that He is the Aleph and the Tav, the First and the Last, and the Beginning and the Ending: I am the Aleph and the Tav, (Alpha and Omega in Greek) the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Revelation 22:13).

When Yahshua said this, He was making a direct reference to Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, and 48:12, where Yahweh Himself says that He is the First and the Last -- and explicitly declared that there is no other “god” beside Him.

Yahshua also said He was the Truth. "I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father apart from Me" (John 14:6).

Notice that the word for truth (which appears in modern Hebrew as is shown above) contains the first letter aleph (reading from right to left), the middle letter mem, and the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, tav, which the Jewish sages say means that the truth contains everything from Aleph to Tav:

Indeed, Pilate's question, "What is truth?" is a category mistake, since truth is not about "what" but about "Who." That is, truth is not something objective and static, a thing to be known and studied from a distance. No. Truth is essentially personal. It is personal disclosure of the character of the subject. Understood in this way, Truth is a way of living, a mode of existence, a relational truth. 

The letter ‘tav’ means “a mark” especially a “boundary-mark, a limit or a finish". Consider what Yahshua said, as He was dying:

It is because of what He has done for us - Who was the embodiment of the Tav - that we may face the Righteous Scales of Judgment one day.
"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
What a wonderful God we serve! Sometimes, we need to just stop and let it in, about what Yahshua has done for us. He gave all, not for the worthy, but for sinners - for you and me.
Consider the words to the hymn:

What shall I give Thee, Master?
  Thou who didst die for me.
Shall I give less of what I possess,
  Or shall I give all to Thee?

Yahshua, my Lord and Savior;
  Thou hast giv’n all for me;
Thou didst leave Thy Home above
  To die on Calvary.
What shall I give Thee, Master?
  Thou hast giv’n all for me;
Not just a part or half of my heart,
    I will give all to Thee.
What shall I give Thee, Master?
  Thou hast redeemed my soul;
My gift is small but it is my all—
  Surrendered to Thy control.
What shall I give Thee, Master?
 Giver of gifts divine!
I'll not withhold time, talents, or gold—
  For everything shall be Thine.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 29, 2017

Today's Reading:

Romans 4

1 Samuel 13

Psalm 58

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Many who read Romans 4 mistake Paul's meaning. They read that we are justified freely, without works, and they assume that this means we may live as if Grace were cheap. They believe that Romans 4 gives license for Christians to set aside obedience to God. They say that we only need to believe on Him and be justified by Yahshua's Sacrifice. But living in rebellion isn't the "blessedness" which comes upon those who are forgiven and justified "without works".

Romans 4:5-8 "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."

We are justified and made free from sin through no works of our own. We did not earn it - indeed, we cannot. But receiving such a precious Gift warrants a response from us, which is where the life-changing "blessedness" comes in that Paul mentions in Romans 4. It is very fitting that we are reading Romans 4 today, of all days. For this day affords us the perfect illustration of Paul's meaning in Romans 4.

In the United States, today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day commemorates the men and women of the United States military who have given the ultimate gift to preserve our nation's freedoms.

What does that really mean anyway? Our nation's freedoms are given to each of us, who live in this great country. But this gift of freedom was not free, which we all enjoy and are often tempted to take for granted. Freedom costs blood. 

To get some scope of what has been given, from just one war, visit the website called the Wall of Faces. There, the names of the pictured men and women we lost in Vietnam are revealed with the move of a cursor. 

One thing you'll notice as you run your mouse over the many pictures is that most of those who died were under 20. They gave their lives at such a young age, that most of the things I have enjoyed were denied them.

In the 29 years beyond my 20th birthday, I married my wonderful husband, welcomed two beautiful children into the world, and I've been right by their sides to celebrate every birthday as they've matured. I've been given enough time to be a loving partner in life for my husband, and a devoted mother and teacher of my two children. In just a few weeks, I am looking forward to helping to celebrate my son's wedding.

And the blessings go even beyond. For God has blessed me and my family to be able to serve Him in ministry, as I dreamed as a child. When I think about all that I have been given, I begin to get a sense of what others gave up when they gave their lives fighting to preserve our nation's freedom. 

Think about it... Have you lived longer than the war heroes who died fighting for this country? If so, what have you been blessed to accomplish in those intervening years? Those are all things which those young war heroes never got the opportunity to enjoy. In a very real sense, their lives were cut off at the beginning, that folks like you and me might enjoy life in its fullness. Freedom is a very expensive gift!

In September of 2005, a social studies teacher from Arkansas did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with permission of the school superintendent, the principal, and the building supervisor, she took all of the desks out of the classroom. 

The kids came into first period, and found that there were no desks. They looked around and said, “Where's our desks?”

The teacher said, “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn them.”

They thought, “Well, maybe it’s our grades.”

“No,” she said.

“Maybe it’s our behavior.”

And she told them, “No, it’s not even your behavior.”

And so they came and went in the first period, still no desks in the classroom. Second period, same thing. Third period. By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in the class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom. The last period of the day, the instructor gathered her class.

They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room. She said, “Throughout the day no one has really understood how you earn the desks that sit in this classroom ordinarily. Now I’m going to tell you.”

She went over to the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did 27 U.S. veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk.

They placed those school desks in rows, and then they stood along the classroom wall. By the time they had finished placing the desks, those kids-for the first time I think perhaps in their lives-understood how they earned those desks.

The teacher said, “You cannot earn those desks. These guys did it for you. It's because they have fought and kept this nation free you have the opportunity to learn and be educated. They put the desks there for you, but it’s up to you to sit here responsibly, to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don’t ever forget it."

Not forgetting involves living thankful instead of taking our freedoms for granted. This means that when we hit our knees tonight, we should say a prayer for those who long for the company, the loving touch of the one who gave his or her all for you and me.

But there is a spiritual application that goes even deeper. Not forgetting what our spiritual freedom has cost means that we never take Heaven's Gift for granted. It is costly beyond comprehension. Recognizing this causes us to change the way we live, in much the same way it changed the way those students studied! Freedom does not give us license to live as we lustfully please! It gives us the ability to walk in the new "blessedness" of living faith. And this is what Paul was talking about in Romans Chapter 4.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 28, 2017

Today's Reading:

Romans 3:9-31

1 Samuel 12

Psalm 57

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Today, I'm going to focus upon Psalm 57 and 1 Samuel 12, which was prophet Samuel's farewell address to Israel given just before he died. In 1 Samuel 12:23-24 we read:
"...I will teach you the good and the right way: Only fear Yahweh, and serve Him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things He hath done for you."
This goes perfectly with the message of David in Psalm 57 (portions of which are set to music in the praise video above).  When we think of what it means to "exalt" the Name of God, we commonly think of singing beautiful praises to His Name. But actually, as Samuel says in this farewell address, the highest form of praise and worship is "fearing God". And fearing God involves obedience to Him:

Ecclesiastes 12:13  "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His Commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." 

Reading the Bible, prayer and meditation are not the highest forms of worship. These are things you do to prepare your mind and heart and build your faith so you can make the choice to wholeheartedly love and obey God. That is why in Joshua 1: 7-8 God said:  

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  

Truly the highest form of worship is obedience to Yahshua Messiah. Actually, this is nothing new. Obedience has always been the highest form of Worship, which is why it was the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden brought sin and death into the world. 

In 1 Samuel 15: 22-23 (which we haven't read yet in our daily Bible reading, but we'll get there)God rejected Saul as King because Saul disobeyed His Commandments. 

But Samuel replied,“What is more pleasing to Yahweh: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His Voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of Yahweh, He has rejected you as king.”  

Today as you praise God (which we do as long as we have breath!) sing His praises - for He is worthy - but don't forget the highest praise. Be obedient to Him.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - May 27, 2017

Today's Reading:

Romans 2:1-3:8

1 Samuel 10:17-11:15

Psalm 56

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Psalm 56 is about enemies and dealing with them. Have you ever had an enemy? Most of us have at least had one. The enemies described in Psalm 56 are the worst kind. We know this because the Psalmist lists a number of things his enemies are doing against him:

1) they are fighting against him daily (Ps 56:1)
2) they are oppressing him (Ps 56:1)
3) they are trying to make him afraid (Ps 56:3)
4) they twist his words to try to trap him (Ps 56:5)
5) they always think the worst of him (Ps. 56:5)
6) they continually try to destroy him (Ps. 56:5)
7) they plot and lay ambushes for him (Ps. 56:6)

Clearly, these are serious and hateful enemies! So how should such a menace be dealt with? Lightning bolts anyone? In verse nine, we read that when David cried to God for help with his enemies and God made them "turn back"!
Psalm 56:9  "When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me."
Like Jonah, sitting out on the hillside outside of Ninevah waiting for the lightning bolts to strike the town, our human side rises up with elation that Almighty God got them good! But the Psalmist isn't just saying that Yahweh forced the enemies to flee. There is another side to the meaning of the words "turn back". One meaning of the original Hebrew word translated as "turn" is actually convert!

Did you know that if you endure persecution, trusting God, and never losing your faithfulness Him, God can actually use you to convert your enemies. As Jonah saw in the Ninevah story, this is always God's first choice.

Consider the amazing story of how an old, black preacher defeated the KKK. Truly God did "turn back" the enemies of this wonderful, Christian man.

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!