Tuesday, January 31, 2012

James 2:14 - 4:17

Study 4 – James 2:14-26

  1. Believing isn’t enough. Sacrificial giving is proof of believing faith. This doesn’t mean that we buy our salvation at all; it merely means that the proof that we have obtained the real thing is that the true Spirit of God will lead us into a life of sacrifice and not a life of demanding blessings on our behalf. To refuse to sacrificially give of oneself on a consistent basis is a sign that the Spirit of God is not resident in within us. We may indeed be a ‘believer’ in the death, burial and resurrection as are the demons, but the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit no more resides in the person that refuses to sacrifice for their savior than it does in the demons that do Satan’s biding.

  2. As examples of what evidence of saving faith looks like, James uses Abraham and Rahab. Abraham was willing to sacrifice the life of his own son in which all of the future promises of God rested and Rahab was willing to sacrifice her own life if necessary in order to help others. James is clearly saying that true faith lays everything on the line and clings to nothing of this earth.

Study 5 – James 3

  1. Teachers will be judged more strictly than others and they have a power and influence over others with their words like no others. They will either provide direction or destruction with their teaching.

  2. False wisdom is filled with envy and selfish ambition and results in every type of evil imaginable. Wisdom that is from God is: pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy  and good fruit, impartial and sincere. True wisdom was embodied in Jesus Christ and should be a part of the DNA of every believer.

Study 6 – James 4

  1. The early change had the same problem that the church has in the 21st century – they quarreled among themselves. The reason they quarreled in the time of James is exactly the same reason that they quarrel today – power struggles. The solution: Submit to God; Resist the temptations of the enemy; Draw near to God through the study of His Word; Come clean; Grieve over your sin; Humble yourself.

  2. We need to realize that we need each other to build the kingdom. We need to set aside our own agenda and start putting God in the driver’s seat.

Friday, January 27, 2012

James 1:1 - 27

Study 1 – James 1:1-18

  1. Trials, believe it or not, are for our benefit. We should view them as training that will make us worthy of crossing the finish line and receiving a crown of glory! When the going gets tough and you need wisdom for the journey you only need ask it from the Lord and believe without a doubt that He will make it available.

  2. The author of temptation is Satan. Flirting with it will only lead to disaster. Temptation must be dismissed immediately. For every temptation that comes along the way we need to remember that God has something even better that the temptation is attempting to counterfeit. If we focus on the real blessing and ask help from the Lord then we can be assured that He will provide a way of escape.

  3. God desires nothing more than to be glorified and He loves to receive glory through blessing those that serve Him and walk in obedience to His Word.

Study 2 – James 1:19-27

  1. Our inability to keep our mouths shut and a lid on our anger and frustration goes a long way toward hindering what God wants to do in our presence.

  2. One of the purposes of the Word of God is to reveal those things in us that must be cast aside. We must deal with what His Word reveals. Doing so is the key to divine blessing.

Malachi 3:7 - 4:6

Study 3 – Malachi 3:7 – 4:6

  1. In this passage the people of Israel are accused of robbing God and of saying harsh things against Him. If we are to achieve the promised blessings of God we must honor Him through our obedience to His Word! According to this passage the very first step in returning to the Lord is through the proper giving of tithes and offerings into the storehouse so that the work of the ministry will not be hindered.

  2. This passage is not about class warfare at all, it is about who is obedient and who is not. Being an evildoer was no guarantee of prosperity either, if it were then there would have been no need for this rebuke through the prophet Malachi. What we must do is place our hope in an eternal future and get our eyes off of present circumstances whether they be times of financial blessing or times of financial need. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in all situations.” Serving the Lord carries no guarantees of worldly financial success. To think otherwise is to miss the point of Malachi entirely. Neither, however, is serving the Lord a call to poverty. Serving the Lord is a call to Trust. Serving the Lord is a guarantee of provision and blessing, but on God’s terms – not ours.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Malachi 1:1 - 3:6

Study 1 – Malachi 1:1 – 2:9

  1. The Lord points out the difference between Esau (Edom) and Jacob (Israel) as a sign of His blessing and love upon the nation of Israel.

  2. The priests were guilty of offering unfit sacrifices and thereby dishonoring the Lord. The punishment was lack of acceptance and the terms of that punishment were set out in extremely graphic terms. The Lord spoke of it being better off that the Temple doors were closed and that the offal of the sacrifices be spread upon the faces of the priests and they be banished as well as all of their blessings becoming curses. God demands sacrifice of His people and He demands that the sacrifices that they offer be of the very best quality possible!

  3. Our role as believers is to glorify God. We are to give Him the honor that He is  

Study 2 – Malachi 2:10 – 3:6

  1. The Lord would not accept their offerings because they were married to those outside of the covenant. I would liken this to the churchgoer that gives 10% of their income and attends regularly yet in all other aspects of his/her life lives in exactly the same way as the rest of the world. The outward appearance is that they are o.k. while the reality is that they are no different than anyone else.

  2. The people demand justice and the Lord lets them know that they aren’t ready for divine justice. It reminds me of Jack Nicholson in a Few Good Men yelling, “You can’t handle the truth!” The day of the Lord’s coming is likened to: a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap. He comes to purify and to cleanse.

  3. There can be only one thing demanding the attention of a follower of the Lord – To Glorify God! The seeking of personal blessing is not what being a follower of the Lord is all about. This is something that we have missed in our culture.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zechariah 11 - 14

Study 7 – Zechariah 11

  1. Christ clearly came to be the Messiah for the nation of Israel, of that there is no doubt. However, while He did come to bind up the broken hearted and to be salvation for Israel; He also came, “not to brin peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).  The intent of Christ and the reality of the reaction of the people unfortunately were not the same. The intent was peace, the end result, based on the peoples actions, was abandonment.

  2. To refuse Christ is to open oneself up to not only the judgment of God, but to all of the attacks of the enemy without any hope of Christ coming to your rescue. While He longs to intervene on behalf of those that He has come to save, He will not do so without heartfelt repentance on the part of those outside of His will.

Study 8 – Zechariah 12 and 13

  1. No matter how many enemies surround us – Christ can defeat them all! Obedience to the Lord and clinging to His promises is more than enough to get us through no matter how much opposition that we face.

  2. God’s people will experience times of grace. They must also experience times of repentance and cleansing themselves of false prophets. They, likewise, must prepare themselves to go through tremendous times of testing. In the end those that except the grace, run from false teaching, repent and endure the tests will be called “The People of God.”

Study 9 – Zechariah 14

  1. In the end of time the entire world will gather against the people of God. The Lord will come down and set his feet upon the Mount of Olives and ‘living water’ will flow out of Jerusalem and the Lord will reign in the city.

  2. All who come there will worship Him while all of His enemies will suffer defeat and severe plague and famine. Those that are not a part of the people of God will not be allowed to dwell in the city of God.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Zechariah 9 and 10

Study 6 – Zechariah 9 and 10

  1. Regardless of what foreign nations may have been used to destroy nations like Tyre; it is ultimately the Lord that stands behind it. In the same way that God had formerly used Assyria and Babylon to carry out His will; He used Alexander the Great to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy. At the same time that great nations like Tyre succumbed to destruction a tiny city/state like Jerusalem was preserved and flourished!

  2. In the first coming of the Christ; He is described as a King of peace that rides in on a donkey. In the second coming of the Christ; He is described as a warrior ready to defeat the enemies of His people. The scope of this King of Peace and this mighty warrior is not limited to the tiny nation of Israel. The Christ will bring peace and comfort to the ends of the earth!

  3. The Lord promises: safety, an abundance of food and drink, joy, restoration, protection and strength.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Zechariah 7 and 8

Study 4 – Zechariah 7

  1. Both the fasting and the feasting of the people of God had become nothing much more than customs. They had lost their true focus. Maintaining that focus is still difficult today whether it involves baptism, communion, worship, or offerings. Far too often they become mere forms of worship but deny the power behind them.

  2. The people of Zechariah’s day suffered from the same illness that we suffer from today – self-centeredness. Other people had merely become a means of elevating oneself. The eyes of the people had become closed to the sufferings of others around them.

Study 5 – Zechariah 8

  1. God promises that the exiles will return from the corners of the earth to Jerusalem and that He will provide for their every need. He also promises that they will be a blessing to the nations and that people from all languages and nations will want to come and join them in worship of the Lord. The Lord remains jealous of His chosen people and wants us to Himself so that He can bless us and thereby be glorified Himself.

  2. The conditions for such blessings outlined in this chapter are: Speak the truth; Render true and sound judgments in court; Do not plot evil against your neighbor; and do not love to swear falsely. Our lack of blessing is always our fault and never a lack of desire to fulfill His promises on the part of the Lord.

  3. The fast times of Judah would quickly become times of celebration as they became more and more obedient to the Lord. The Lord’s desire is not for us to be in times of lack and mourning, but in times of blessing and joy. He takes no joy from our misery. Our hard times are meant as lessons to place us on the path of obedience which will lead to times of joy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Zechariah 1 - 6

Study 1 – Zechariah 1 and 2

  1. Refusal to obey the Word of the Lord will always end in disaster. You cannot merely pledge obedience and then go your own way. Obedience is a must!

  2. Those that God has chosen He does not abandon. He truly wants the best for His people. Those that stand in opposition to the people of the Lord have no hope of success. God is able to restore His people from the most desperate of circumstances. There is no amount of devastation that will stand in His way.

  3. The description of Jerusalem as a ‘city without walls’ is clearly an allusion to the inclusion of the nations. The Church becomes the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. The Lord keeps His promises to His people! Nothing will ever stand in the way of that as long as we remain obedient to Him.

Study 2 – Zechariah 3 and 4

  1. The Lord is the only one that can remove sin. He can do it with a simple  word from His mouth. The only requirement that was given to Joshua was continued obedience to the Word of the Lord.

  2. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the leaders of the Church are powerless to build anything of value in the Kingdom of God.

Study 3 – Zechariah 5 and 6

  1. The way of the wicked will always perish!

  2. The vision of the crowning of Joshua as Priest/King points to Christ, whose name in Hebrew was ‘Joshua’ and who also came to be the Priest and King of His people.

Haggai 2

Study 2 – Haggai 2

  1. The Lord promises to “shake things up.” It is as if the Lord grabs a hold of a fruit tree and shakes it until all of the choice fruit falls to the ground. The Lord promises to harvest the very best for His house. He also promises to take a defiled people that have done nothing to deserve blessing and to open up the windows of heaven and pour out blessing upon them as they turn their attention toward the reconstruction of His temple.

  2. A modern day way of rephrasing Haggai’s words in this section would be to say that a person wearing clean clothes cannot rub shoulders with someone covered with mud and expect the person covered with mud to become clean. The opposite will happen. The clean person will become dirty. A little ‘holiness’ will not make everything o.k. Yet, a little sin will corrupt the entire being.

  3. The Lord elevates who He wants to elevate and He brings low who He wants to bring low. Worship of Him is central to being on the right side of that equation!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Haggai 1

Study 1 – Haggai 1

  1. The Jews of Haggai’s day had placed self before the Lord. They had placed their own houses before the Lord’s House! God wanted them to understand that only by placing Him first could they hope to prosper.

  2. The people had taken a desperate situation and began to build up the fallen nation of Judah. However, they had forgotten the cornerstone – The Temple. They had built a wonderful new land out of the ashes, but there was no foundation. Sudden victory and prosperity can be a very dangerous thing because we can quickly forget to slow down and make sure that our foundations are strong. This was the problem in Haggai’s day and is something that we must also guard against.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Psalm 106:34-48

Study 84 – Psalm 106:34-48

1.      The first failure of the new nation of Israel was to allow the occupying nations to remain a force. This led to intermarriage which led to adopting foreign customs and gods. As Christians we need to make sure that we do not have friendship with the world and above all must make sure that we do not intermarry with people outside of the faith. There must be a separation. The Christian must be holy – separate.

2.      “He took note of their distress when he heard their cry for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented.” This is the key verse to sum up the tremendous love of God that outweighs the tremendous rebellion on the part of Israel and us as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Psalm 105

Study 82 – Psalm 105

1.      The hearers of this psalm are commanded to: give thanks, call on the name of the Lord, make the nations aware of what the Lord has done, sing, glory in His name, rejoice, look to the Lord, seek His face, and remember the wonders that he has done.

2.      Ultimately, God intervenes on behalf of His people so that He will receive glory. God desires, more than anything, to be glorified, therefore, we should never doubt His willingness to come to our aid if we in turn will be ready to give Him the glory.

3.   There was never a moment in this long rehashing of the history of Israel that God did not have His hand guiding the situation. Whether Israel was living in obedience or had turned their back on the Lord, God was always doing His part to keep them on the path that would bring them blessing and Him glory.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Psalm 102 - 104

Study 79 – Psalm 102

1.      In times of trouble we need to turn to the Lord and realize that though our present trouble may well a result of the judgment of God; His compassion and power to deliver and restore have not been diminished.

2.      A dramatic shift takes place between verse 11 and verse 12 because the focus is no longer on the one suffering. The attention has shifted to the One with the power to deliver. When we focus on self we become even more miserable. When we focus on the Almighty God everything changes!

Study 80 – Psalm 103

1.      The blessings of God:
a. Forgiveness of sin
b. Healing
c. Redemption from certain destruction
d. Love and compassion
e. Righteousness and Justice
f. Grace
g. Mercy

2.      God’s love is unfailing, knows no limits, and never ends! It is demonstrated through the acts of forgiveness, redemption, mercy, and grace. We are not treated as we deserve to be treated by a Holy God. Instead, we are recipients of mercy, grace, compassion, and love. As a result we must arouse our soul and command it to Praise The Lord!

Study 81 – Psalm 104

1.      Without the provision of food and breathe the created could not survive. In this psalm God is both creator and sustainer of His creation. Reading this psalm demands praise from every created thing!

2.      Every true Christian will share the resolve of the psalmist in verses 31-35. How could you do otherwise?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Psalm 101

Study 78 – Psalm 101

1.      Every Christian should live by the words of this psalm in which we refuse to place anything evil before our eyes, we refuse to have fellowship with perverse people, and we immediately shut down gossip. We should also do as the psalmist and make a daily practice of silencing the voice of the wicked. All too often we let wicked people get by with far too much. We allow the disobedient and the destructive individuals in our churches set the town for the church rather than doing as the psalmist tells us to, which is to have our eyes on the faithful.

2.  David sought the company of those that were obedient and shunned the gossips, the perverse, and the troublemakers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Psalm 99 and 100

Study 77 – Psalms 99 and 100

1.      The Almighty God is a God of Justice above all things. This is something that the ungodly should fear and that the righteous should glory in. The fact that the righteous can call upon such an Almighty force of Justice and receive an answer is truly a demonstration of the overwhelming grace and love of God for His people.

2.      The Lord is responsible for our life; He is good; and His love is everlasting! Knowledge of this should inspire us to worship Him. The same love, life and goodness that we experience will be there for our children and grandchildren. He is our hope and that hope is not misplaced!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Psalms 97 and 98

Study 76 – Psalms 97 and 98

1.      In Psalm 97 God’s might, justice, and compassion upon those who follow after Him are key characteristics. One gets the sense of needing to kneel and place one’s head firmly to the ground before His throne as both an act of worship and an act of fear.

2.   The psalmist calls upon his readers to worship the Lord for past deliverance and for the future judgment of the wicked and exaltation of the righteous. I think that too often we have a tendency to get caught up in our problems with the wicked rather than realize that God will deal with them in His time. Our focus is far too often on the faults of others rather than upon the blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon us as His children. The more we can get the focus off of ourselves and onto the Lord the better off we will be.

Psalm 90 - 96

Study 71 – Psalm 90

1.      Man’s days are numbered while the Lord cannot even begin to number His own! Man’s life is but a temporary and passing vapor in which there is little happiness apart from the presence of the Lord in that life. God is described as a righteous judge which will tolerate no disobedience on the part of His servants. The psalmist pleads with the Lord for wisdom to realize those things in life that are worth pursing based on the temporary nature of life and the fact that our lives belong to the Lord and to His service. It is only through obedient service to Him that we are able to lay up eternal treasures.

2.      In spite of the awesome might, power and righteousness of God there is still room for compassion. The grace of God is every bit as amazing and redeeming as His power can be destructive. God desires to bless His children, not to punish them. The punishment of His children is to bring about obedience in them which will lead to divine blessing in their lives.

Study 72 – Psalm 91

1.      The Psalmist paints a picture of the presence of God as a strong tower into which all can run and find refuge against any enemy no matter how powerful. The psalmist makes it clear that those that call upon the Lord will be delivered and are promised long life as well.

2.      In verses 14-16 there are promises of: rescue; protection; deliverance; a divine response; honor; longevity; and salvation. What was true in the day of the psalmist is no less a reality today. God is still at work fulfilling every single one of these promises each and every day on planet Earth!

Study 73 – Psalm 92 and 93

1.      The Lord will destroy all evil and will bless all righteousness. The justice of God is foremost in this chapter. “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

2.      Key to participating in the eternal blessings of God is obedience to His commands. The very word “righteous” indicates “right standing.” Failure to uphold His commands places us outside of the realm of His blessing.

3.      Not only does Psalm 93 describe the Lord as powerful; it also describes Him as Holy and Eternal.

Study 74 – Psalm 94

1.      The psalmist takes comfort in Divine Justice. “Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.”

2.      God warns the wicked that their deeds do not go unnoticed. God is fully aware of their every act and every plan and will pay them back according to what they have done. The present suffering at the hands of evil doers will only further glorify the Lord when He brings judgment upon the wicked and blessings upon the righteous.

Study 75 – Psalm 95 and 96

1.      There is no equal to the Lord. He is the creator of all things therefore every living things must give Him praise. The heavens, the earth, the trees, and the sea are not exempt from offering Him praise and neither is mankind. Our worship of Him should be new and fresh each and every day as fresh and new as the breathe that we take each day.

2.      In Psalm 95 we are warned against hardening our hearts. Too often we focus on those things that mankind has created and deemed as important and not upon the creator. When we do this as they did in the wilderness by focusing on life in Egypt rather than on life with the Lord, we are at great risk of abandoning the blessings of God for worthless idols.