Devotional Reading for May 12, 2021

Esther 3-4 (The Daily Walk Bible).

When I was in NYC I attended a Purim reading of the book of Esther. Every time Haman’s name came up, the Jewish people who were present spit! I think that it’s more traditional to hiss or boo. For some Haman has become the personification of generations of Jewish haters, and it’s no wonder. Simply because his pride is hurt, he decides to not just get back at the person who “wronged” him, but to commit genocide. And he comes up with a way to get others to help. Anyone who kills the Jews gets to keep their property. Can you imagine a more heinous plot?

Haman may have actually had a problem with the Jewish people before Mordecai came along, and others may have as well. They looked different. They lived different. They had their own laws. They were easy to pick on. See any parallels with us?

While we are to try to live peaceable with all (Romans 12:18), we are still going to be different. We are living our lives to God’s standards, and God’s standards are different than what the rest of the world lives by. Jesus warned us that it will cause conflict: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Most of us probably want to be liked, want to be accepted, and want to be seen as normal. However we have to realize the truth of James 4:4. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” But remember: we are who we are by God’s grace. Even as we live different lives, we need to treat others with humility and respect, because it wasn’t so long ago that we were living just like the world!

2 Timothy 1:9 “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

Devotional Reading for May 11, 2021

Esther 1-2 (The Daily Walk Bible).

From the ESV Study Bible: “Susa, in western Persia (the city is now called Shush, in the southwestern part of modern Iran), was one of Persia’s four capital cities (see Neh. 1:1; Dan. 8:2). Media, Northwestern Persia, near the Caspian Sea. Once a separate nation, it was conquered c. 550 B.C. by Cyrus the Great, who founded the Persian Empire. The time (483 B.C., the third year of Xerxes’ reign), and the presence of the army, suggest that Xerxes may have been building support for his invasion of Greece (preparations c. 483–480; the Battle of Thermopylae took place in 480).

Here are the additional passages that the devotional uses to show that God is in control:

Exodus 4:11 “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?'”

Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Daniels 4:17, 25, 32 “to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men…till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will…until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Devotional Reading for May 10, 2021

Nehemiah 11-13 (The Daily Walk Bible).

Normally I try to do my devotions the evening before, so that I can schedule my post to go up at midnight for the day of. I’ve been fairly successful at that, but every now and then there is a day. A day of sickness. A day of business. A day of tiredness. Yesterday was one of those days, and here I am 12 hours late by my reckoning, reading through the passage.

I say that to say this: Be gentle with yourself. There are reflection days for a reason. You can catch up! Which can be important, especially with work, and kids, and life. And if you’re a lot behind, don’t sweat it. There are different ways you can read the Bible. You can read very large sections at a time, and that can help you understand the ebb and flow of the story. Or you can read smaller sections, just a few chapters at a time, and you can think more about the individual events. The devotional can help us understand and apply the Bible to our lives, but sometimes the suggested activities themselves can be overwhelming. Here’s my recommendation: read the Bible! Keep up if you can, but don’t “cram” to catch up. Spend time thinking about the passage. Mull it over during the day. And if you can do some of the additional suggested application, great! If not, you’re at least putting the good stuff in you heart and your mind, and the Holy Spirit will use that to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ.

Devotional Reading for May 9, 2021

Nehemiah 8:2-10:39 (The Daily Walk Bible).

Nehemiah 8:8 is my calling: “They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.” God has always called people to help deliver and explain his word, whether they are prophets, priests, scribes, levites, rabbis, pastors, or teachers!

It’s amazing how much access we have to the Bible and Christian teaching in this day and age. I wonder if we are actually any more godly than other ages though? It all centers around hearts that are willing to worship and obey, as the Israelites returning to the land finally were: “They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands, laws, and regulations of the Lord their Lord” (Nehemiah 10:29).

Did you catch “you gave us only what we deserved” (Nehemiah 9:33)? I believe that is a key to spirituality too. We need to understand when we have sinned, repent of our sin, and recognize that God is just and right when we are punished for our sins. Just remember that he doesn’t have to directly intervene for us to be punished. He has set up this world in such a way that many sins are punished as a part of the natural order. But isn’t it great that the eternal consequences of our sins have been taken away because Jesus Christ took the punishment we deserved when he died on the cross for our sin? 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Devotional Reading for May 8, 2021

Nehemiah 5-8:1 (The Daily Walk Bible).

It’s not surprising that Nehemiah was upset at Israelites taking advantage of other Israelites. The Bible continually urges God’s people to take care of one another. In fact, it was a mark of the early church. Acts 2:44-45 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Hopefully we have the same desire to help out other believers!

Nehemiah uses himself as an good example. He didn’t even take the allotted food allowance, let alone extra from the population, in “contrast to the former governors.” Can you even imagine an elected official today with that kind of integrity?

Devotional Reading for May 7, 2021

Reflection Day!

Here are the passages the devotional uses to illustrate anthropomorphism (describing an attribute of God in human terms):

Isaiah 51:9 “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD.”

2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”

1 Samuel 15:22 “And Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.'”

Joshua 4:24 “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

Ezra 7:6 “this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”

Do you feel God’s guidance and care? Have you known His strength and support? Do you listen to Him?

You may have wondered why the devotional has 9 chapters one day and only 2 another! It seems that anytime it goes over material that is similar to what we’ve read before, or lists a lot of names, it assumes that we will be skimming the material. I sometimes listen to sections like that on a device where I can adjust the reading speed. The smaller sections allow us to dig into the story a little more, and give us time to think about the meaning. I like to read through those sections a little more slowly or more frequently. The amazing thing about the Bible is that you see new things every time you go through an old passage!

Sermon Outline for 5/2/21 (Radio Broadcast 5/9/21) — “Inheriting the Kingdom!”

Inheriting the Kingdom!
Galatians 4:1-7

I) We were _______________

II We have now received our ________________

III) And it’s because of __________ Christ!

     A) He came in the ____________ of time

     B) He was sent by _________

     C) He is __________

     D) He is ___________

     E) He became our ____________________

     F) And He ___________ in our place

     G) So that we could be ___________________

     H) And we are now children who have received our 
        _________________!

IV) We now have the _______________!

V) And we have a _______________

Devotional Reading for May 6, 2021

Nehemiah 3-4 (The Daily Walk Bible).

We have an opportunity to make our own legacy, both with those around us and with God. At the end of Ezra we find a “Hall of Shame,” but here we find a “Hall of Heroes.” God was paying attention to who was doing His work, and the people who built the wall were recorded in His Word. Now that’s a legacy!

We also see here that God’s people have a long history of being mocked and threatened. When we find that happening to us we should take to heart what we read here. Mocking shouldn’t affect us: we should remain steadfast in our work! We also are taught that we can defend and help God’s people who are being threatened: perhaps through physical action, possibly through political action, but certainly through prayer!

Devotional Reading for May 5, 2021

Nehemiah 1-2 (The Daily Walk Bible).

Since we read through Nehemiah’s prayer today, our devotional suggest that we bask in certain Biblical promises, and gives us the following passages to consider:

Jeremiah 33:3 “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

John 16:24 “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

1 John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

Matthew 7:7-11 is probably the most abused passage of this group. The good things here aren’t a gold watch, a new Porsche, or a big mansion! The good things are the things that are in accordance with God’s will, things that bring spiritual joy, and things that help us get a better understanding of and a closer relationship with God. May all our prayers seek the “good things” that God promises to give us!

Devotional Reading for May 4, 2021

Ezra 9-10 (The Daily Walk Bible).

Sending away wives and children? What do we make of that? First we have to realize that the big issue with all this is idolatry, and it is especially grievous because priests were involved. Ezra 9:1 says that those involved “have taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites.” The nation (and the priesthood) were trying to rectify a wrong. Did they go to far? There is no condemnation, and it seems that there is even tacit approval. However, in the age of grace, things are a little different. Here’s what Hard Sayings of the Bible has to say:

“Even before Israel had entered into the land, they had been warned not to intermarry with the inhabitants (Ex 34:11–16; Deut 7:1–5). Such intermarriage would inevitably result in idolatry. Though there were many intermarriages throughout Israel’s history, apparently many of these involved proselytes. The outstanding examples, of course, are Ruth, Rahab and Moses’ Cushite wife. But many others cannot be explained as converts; they often appear to be tolerated and left in the midst of God’s people. Ultimately, this was one of the factors that led to God’s judgment and the Babylonian captivity.

What did Ezra do with these wives? The word translated “to send away” or “to cause to go out” in Ezra 10:3 is not the usual word for divorce. Nevertheless, that is what appears to have happened. Even more surprising, their solution is said to agree with the law!

Divorce was permitted under certain circumstances in Deuteronomy 24:1–4. Could it be that Ezra unlocked the meaning of that mysterious phrase “for something unseemly, shameful” or, as the NIV translates it, “he finds something indecent about her”? This could not refer to adultery, as the law provided the death penalty in that case (Deut 22:22). Thus it had to be something else that brought shame on God’s people. What could bring greater shame than the breaking of the covenant relationship and the ultimate judgment of God on all the people? Perhaps Ezra had this passage in mind when he provided for the divorce of these unbelieving wives.

There are many questions that remain. Were the ostracized children and wives provided for? Were any attempts made to win them to faith in the one true God? No direct answers are given to these and similar questions, perhaps because these matters were not germane to the main point of revelation.

Those attempting to show that Ezra rendered a questionable decision say he lost his prestige and influence in the community as a result of this decision. However, when the chronology of Ezra and Nehemiah is restored to its proper sequence, according to the textual claims and the most recent historical studies, Ezra was once again before the public during the revival of Nehemiah recorded in Nehemiah 8.

Are we left then with an argument for divorcing unbelieving spouses today? No! In fact, 1 Corinthians 7:12–16 says that if the unbeliever is willing to continue living with the believer, then they must not divorce, for the unbelieving partner is sanctified by the believer! However, should the unbeliever finally and irremediably desert the believer, the believer “is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (1 Cor 7:15). The object is to win the unbelieving spouse to Christ. But when an unbeliever chooses to desert his or her partner and marriage vows, then reluctantly the believer may let that one go, that is, sadly accept the divorce, with the right to be married to another.”