Monthly Archives: June 2012

Ecclesiastes 7, 8, 9; Acts 10:1-23

Breaking down prejudices is not a linear event.  It is a shifting in one’s beliefs through multiple experiences that carve away the entrenched, learned, and automatic negative thoughts that bind blind acceptance with tradition and ignorance.

In the Old Testament, we read about a man’s struggle with intellectual prejudice.  Solomon had hoped that seeking wisdom would set him apart from other men and that he could escape the consequences of the fool by setting his heart on great learning.  As a king Solomon, no doubt, settled many disputes fairly, decided the fates of men, determined the legitimate claims of families, and negotiated the peace of kingdoms.  He also involved himself in the practical, everyday work of man making a living.  As he pondered these experiences, he came to believe that even the fool and the wise are alike.  Both should eat, drink, and be merry because “time and chance happen to them all.” Both the wise and the fool will face the ultimate leveler, death.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter represented the religious prejudices that were schooled in a good Jewish boy.  He was taught to practice the laws and rituals of his faith regarding what is unclean or common.  After knowing Christ as his Savior, however, it appeared that Peter began hanging out with those of lower social status, such as the tanners who work with dead carcasses.  These experiences prepared him for the dream of God’s repeated command to eat what was not lawful for a Jew.  The dream prepared Peter to accept the request to travel with Gentiles to the Centurion’s home, stay with him, and offer the Gentile commander salvation.  Peter’s prejudices toward all men not in the Jewish genealogies crumbled when he saw these Gentiles receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What prejudices do I hold that God is scraping away?  Is my love of education and admiration for those with intellectual talent keeping me from seeing the home-grown wisdom of my elders?  Do I seek to enjoy the newest fads of a privileged existence rather than contentment in the simple life? What of my discomfort of hanging out with the unsaved?  Do I withdraw because I am a Christian and should flee from evil?  Or am I a religious prude?  Wrestling with these questions, I pray, will help me to break down any prejudices that interfere with loving my neighbor as myself.

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Ecclesiastes, New Testament, Old Testament

Ecc 4, 5, 6; Acts 9:23-43

The writer of Ecclesiastes is general considered to be Solomon.  Solomon was arguable one of the wealthiest and wisest men to ever walk this earth.  I mean he had it all and understood pretty much everything.  Yet as you read this book you don’t exactly find someone who seems happy.  Everything is meaningless and he seems frustrated with “everything under the sun.”  This doesn’t exactly line up with the general idea of what most people call success.

Lately, I have been dealing with my own frustrations and with trying to figure out God’s will for my life.  Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis, I don’t know, but I’ve been dealing with some disappointments and doors closing in the direction of where I thought God wanted me to go.

Frustration is something we all can relate to I’m sure and usually it’s because we can’t seem to get what we think we really need or want.  I think the key words here are what “we think“.  This isn’t the first time in my life I have dealt with disappointment.  I look back and see where God led me through some tough times and I can see now how He was in it.  But at the time it was confusing and frustrating, just like it is now.  In the end though, I know it is all based on me not being content on where God has me now and instead focusing on where I think I should be.  It is a lack of focus

In Solomon’s writing, he points to this.  Did you notice how many times he says I did this and I did that?  I think what he is trying to say is that when we do things for ourselves, ultimately there is no eternal meaning or value.  It’s like chasing the wind as he puts it.  He does clarify this a few times when he talks about how fulfillment or happiness is a gift from God.

“They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”  Ecc. 5:20

God, help my focus.  Help my vision to be in line with Yours.  Help me to live in the moment for You.  Grant me patience and peace to deal with frustrations when they come and to give You the glory no matter what.

Amen

Allen (allen4myfamily)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Ecclesiastes, New Testament, Old Testament

Ecclesiastes 1, 2, 3; Acts 9:1-22

Deep in the ugly, it was hard to see beauty. A weekly list of thanksgiving (my own list, for even the smallest things: heart-shaped clover, a child’s hand to hold, a good cup of coffee, socks on my feet) kept me afloat when bigger things in life tossed me (losses of expectation and friendship, a death in the family, a move). In Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes of chasing the wind, but that summer, my hands grasped tightly to clutch at vapor: time–moments so full … and fleeting.

I read over familiar verses in a time for everything, and it starts to make more sense: that time of life in loss, that sadness I couldn’t hurry. A season. A time to grieve. I wished it was shorter. I wished it didn’t hurt so much. I wondered how long it would last.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. Ecclesiastes 3:11s NLT.

It lingered much longer than a summer. Oh, deep in the ugly, it was hard to see beauty.

He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11b.

Saul started out a devout hater of Jesus Christ and anyone whose heart loved the Lord.

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. Acts 9:1.

I wondered over the connection of these verses in Old Testament and New Testament, side by side.

But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. Acts 9:15.

And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” All who heard him were amazed. Acts 9:20-21.

And I saw: the time to hate, the time to love. God wasn’t absent from any before to after–he was always there. And I review the list again, living/dying, planting/harvesting, killing/healing, tearing down/building up, crying/laughing, grieving … dancing. So much more. He is present in all the seasons, makes the same things happen over and over–a whole scope of His work from beginning to end.

Father God, I cannot see the scope of your work from beginning to end. In the midst of my All That (whew!) thanks of little things represented for me the beauty of a much bigger thing: seeking daily to find your love scattered around me–and you never let me down. The toughest moments, you were there. You didn’t forsake me or leave me. So thankful, Lord. That dark season brought me closer to you than I had ever been.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Ecclesiastes, New Testament, Old Testament

1 Kings 10, 11; Acts 8:26-40

The only way to remain in God’s presence is to remain in God’s presence.

 

I was thinking about the verses from today’s reading and their stark differences. 1 Kings 10 reveals “the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord,” and how “the whole world sought an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart,” (vv. 1, 24).  While 1 Kings 11 discusses Solomon’s love for foreign women, “about which the Lord had told the Israelites…’they will surely turn your hearts after their gods,’” and because of his decisions the Lord said, “Since this is your attitude…I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates,” (vv. 2, 11).

 

It’s easy for me to read this and think, “Wow, man, you really screwed up,” without ever taking an honest look at the times in my own life when I turned away to “foreign gods” (like money, promotion, and praise from other people) and expected them to fulfill and satisfy my life in the same way my daily relationship with God had.

 

As I was thinking about today’s reading and some of the things the queen of Sheba had said about Solomon, I realized I want those same things spoken about my walk with the Lord and my relationship to Him: “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and wisdom is true… Praise be to the Lord your God who has delighted in you,” (1 Kings 10:6, 9).

 

What an awesome compliment: Praise be to the Lord your God who has delighted in you.  My prayer is that I would remain, daily, in God’s presence and be known as a woman in whom God delights.

Heatherpotts5

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1 Kings 8,9; Acts 8:1-25

1 Kings 8

27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!

1 Kings 9

The Lord said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’

25 Three times a year Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar he had built for the Lord, burning incense before the Lord along with them, and so fulfilled the temple obligations.

Acts 8

15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Solomon spent thirteen years building a temple for God, now he’s trying to convince the God of the universe to take up residence in a home built by man.  Solomon does all of the right things.  He pulls the elders of Israel together, they place the ark of the Lord’s covenant in the new temple, offer up praise to the Lord, and perform large numbers of sacrifices.  Even with all of this I can’t help but think that Solomon has some major doubts about God taking up residence in the new temple.  I’m sure he was relieved when the Lord appeared to him a second time and claims that he will indeed keep His eyes and ears there forever.  Maybe twenty percent of God’s message to Solomon was accepting the temple.  The other eighty percent was filled with things that Solomon must do and warnings of what would happen if he didn’t.  Solomon seems to have only paid attention to the part about the temple.  He quickly falls into the trap of only doing what is required to fulfill the “obligations” of his walk with God.

Now move into the time of Acts – new believers in Samaria, needing the presence of God with them.  Did they build a temple?  They did not.  Instead, they asked for help and were sent Peter and John.  Peter and John prayed and with the laying on of hand , the new believers received the Holy Spirit.   God NOT living with man, but instead God Living in Man!  What a concept.  God is here with us at all times.  We don’t have to go great distances and sacrifice animals or make burnt offerings.  It is as simple as looking towards God who Lives in us!  We no longer have an excuse to worship other gods or to not obey the commands and decrees that God has given us.  We have God in us!

Father, help us to always be aware of your presence in our lives.  Help us to always worship you and to become aware of all the false gods that we tend to be deceived by.  Pour out your spirit on us so that we may always have you with us.  Write your name on our hearts and help us to share the Gospel with others.  May all things be as Jesus said they would be, Amen.

Ed Sorrell

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Filed under 1 Kings, 66 Books, Acts, Uncategorized

1 Kings 5,6,7; Acts 7:44-60

In the Old Testament, we return to the story of King Solomon and the building of the temple. Solomon started on this mammoth project, making deals with other kings for materials, and organizing a huge forded labor force. It amazes me what people could accomplish in ancient history, without the technology we have today. The temple was amazing.

Unlike the commands for the Tabernacle, or the Ark of the Covenant, or Noah’s Ark for that matter, there are no specific requirements for this temple. Personally, it seemed like this temple was more important to the people than it was to God. When God speaks to Solomon about it, he dismisses it right off and instead emphasizes the importance of obedience to God’s decrees, regulations and commands. The promise for the throne to continue in David’s lineage was actually dependent on it. It was one of those promises of God that starts with “If…”.

11 The word of the Lord came to Solomon: 12 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” (1 Kings 6:11-13)

Solomon completes the construction in seven years, but then takes thirteen years building his palace, which was four times bigger that the Temple! (And in Ecclesiastes we read how all of this extravagance gave only fleeting pleasure…)

Fast forward to the New Testament, and we hear what Stephen has to say about this Temple as he addresses the crowd:

46 “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob.[j] 47 But it was Solomon who actually built it. 48 However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,

49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord.
‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth? (Acts 7:46-50)

This Temple became a stumbling block to the Jews.  By having something concrete to focus on they missed the whole point of having God present with them all the time. Stephen continues:

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen[l] at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels…

57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:51-53,57-58)

Lord, temples can’t contain you. You are omnipresent. My relationship with you is more important than elaborate buildings, riches, or anything I can see, feel, or touch. I crave your presence. I want to hear the truth. I want to trust you. Come stay with me.

suegraff

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Song of Solomon 7,8,9; Acts 7:23-43

Scripture:

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

Observation:

We find ourselves in the middle of Stephen’s defense before the Jewish Ruling Council. He is summarizing the entire history of the Jewish Nation. He is speaking off the cuff so to speak and knows with quite detail what the major events of this history are. This is a fairly long chapter in the Book of Acts. I copied this section, but read the entire section assigned for today. This is only part of the grand defense that Stephen mounts. He didn’t study hard before giving this talk, it just rolled off his tongue as he rehearsed Israel’s history. What a faith and what a memory!

Application:

Several years ago I was speaking to a group of leaders and mentioned the story of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. As we talked it dawned on me that half of these leaders had never read or heard this story. I was caught off guard. A leader, a Christ-follower should be familiar with the great stories of the Bible at least. I think this story of Stephen is one of them. Ezekiel and the Valley of the Dry Bones is another one we should know. If you are keeping up daily with 66books then you will know the stories or you already know them because you’ve read the Bible through already. I believe God rewards those that are faithful in Bible reading & prayer. Those that do are firmer in their faith. They deal better with the trials of life and are a blessing to more. What about you? How many of the stories do you know? Should you know more?

Prayer:

Father God, thank you for your Word and the stories contained in it. I pray that these stories will change our lives and that they will be opportunities we can use to share the truth of the gospel with other. I pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen.

dmbaldwin

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