They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. (2 Kings 17:15)

Thought:

There is a lot in the Bible about how God’s chosen people repeatedly disobeyed, at best, and completely turned their hearts against The Lord at worst. However this short passage contains the whole story. But what really breaks my heart is the truth that although it is written as history, in the past tense, it is still so desperately relevant today. Our generation has, for the most part, rejected God in favour of science and the further society moves away from faith in God the more people think it is normal to follow the example of those around them. Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right or good for you or worth anything at all. So many people have put their trust in the wisdom of science, or the perceived security of their wealth or the imaginary freedom of the individual. Society, it seems to me, is stubbornly refusing to listen to and believe in God.

Word:

2 Kings 17:13-17 NLT

Again and again the Lord had sent his prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: “Turn from all your evil ways. Obey my commands and decrees—the entire law that I commanded your ancestors to obey, and that I gave you through my servants the prophets.” But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord’s command not to imitate them. They rejected all the commands of the Lord their God and made two calves from metal. They set up an Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven. They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. They consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the Lord’s anger.

Goal:

I understand that focusing too much on the negative is no good for anyone so I hope my Goal for today is more positive. This is the line that breaks my heart the most:
They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. (from 2 Kings 17:15) I believe that God sees everyone on earth as one of his precious children. So many people I know, and millions more that I don’t, feel that they are worthless. Many of them have been told exactly that all their lives. But my goal is to spend the rest of my life telling as many of them as I can, that in realising and accepting the unconditional Love of God, all sense of worthlessness vanishes and is replaced with a real purpose for your life, true joy and the greatest sense of peace you can imagine.

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 17:1-18:12, Acts 20:1-38, Psalms 148:1-14, Proverbs 18:6-7

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So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect. (Acts 19:20)

Thought:

A Christian friend of mine, shortly after I gave my life to Christ, told me I should make a conscious effort to live by my new faith in everything I did and especially in everything I said. He warned me that although few people in society today are outwardly Christians, they know what Christians aught to be doing and saying etc… One of the most widespread criticisms of Christians and more broadly, the church, is that for whatever reason, they don’t practice what they preach. It is as if the church as a whole, is perceived by the general public in a similar way that the seven sons of Sceva were perceived by the evil spirit in the passage below. The non Christian public hear the church talking about the power, the glory, the peace and the love of God, but they see precious little of the impact these words promise. So they conclude that the words are empty and the Lord is not in the church.

Word:

Acts 19:13-20 NLT

A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered. The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honoured. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.

Goal:

Today my goal is, once again to confess my sinful practices and rid my life, again, of the old sinful things I still turn to aside from God. Those who reject the love of God can only be reached by the Lord himself and so if he is not in us as individuals, he will not be found in the wider body of the church. I pray in true humility that the Lord would forgive me again for doubting his power and presence in my life. I ask that I might begin again, afresh this morning on my walk with Jesus. I pray that he might recognise me and use me to help spread his message widely and with powerful effect.

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 15:1-16:20, Acts 19:13-41, Psalms 147:1-20, Proverbs 18:4-5

He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy.(Acts 18:25)

Thought:

This record of Apollos gives me great encouragement. So far in the Gospels and the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we have read the stories and heard the testimonies of men who had known Jesus personally, either during his life and ministry or, in Paul’s case, through a direct revelation from Jesus himself. Here we meet Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria in Egypt, who had only heard about Jesus and his way. He was an intelligent man who was well versed in the scriptures and so he had seen the truth of Jesus as the Messiah in the scriptures that we now know as the Old Testament. Apollos was preaching enthusiastically and correctly about Jesus. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they recognised his gift, and so they took him aside and gave him a more comprehensive training. They had been trained by Paul and so they passed on that knowledge to Apollos. I find myself surprised by this new desire to share the Good News with those who don’t yet know it. I wonder if Priscilla, Aquila or Apollos were ever surprised by what they did and how their lives were different after they had heard and accepted the truth about Jesus.

Word:

Acts 18:24-28 NLT

Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately. Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah.

Goal:

I have been taught the way of Jesus, and like Apollos, I too feel enthusiastic about sharing the teachings of Jesus with others as accurately and accessibly as possible. But also, I am in need of a more thorough understanding of how to interpret the scriptures, how best to pray, and how to live more fully in the way of Jesus. My humble prayer today and my goal for the future is, that The Lord will put me in the path of those who will recognise my enthusiasm to learn, and take the time to explain these things even more accurately. I pray that just as Apollos was tutored and mentored by Priscilla and Aquila, I might also be blessed by the wisdom and experience of those I have met and am yet to meet on this exciting journey with Jesus.

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 13:1-14:29, Acts 18:23-19:12, Psalms 146:1-10, Proverbs 18:2-3

For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me. (Acts 18:10)

Thought:

Religious persecution is an odd concept when you think about it. Especially when you consider the horrible ways in which people have been executed for their various faiths over time. In the passage below, Paul is accused of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.”(Acts 18:13) I have often pondered why religious persecution has been such a common practice throughout history, so I was delighted to read of Gallio’s response. He simply rubbished the charges and threw the case out of court. It seems from the response of the crowd as they beat up Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, that perhaps many of them had not agreed with his assessment of Paul’s teaching and so now they were able to vent their frustration with the full blessing of the Roman Governor. A beating that the Jews had hoped to visit upon Paul, was instead delivered to their leader.

Word:

Acts 18:9-17 NLT

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. But when Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment. They accused Paul of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.” But just as Paul started to make his defence, Gallio turned to Paul’s accusers and said, “Listen, you Jews, if this were a case involving some wrongdoing or a serious crime, I would have a reason to accept your case. But since it is merely a question of words and names and your Jewish law, take care of it yourselves. I refuse to judge such matters.” And he threw them out of the courtroom. The crowd then grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right there in the courtroom. But Gallio paid no attention.

Goal:

In Paul’s vision the Lord finishes by telling Paul that many people in the city belong to Him. My goal is to listen to that point and take it seriously in my life. I need to remember how it was for me before I made my commitment to follow Jesus. I think I always knew, deep down, that I belonged to the Lord. But I needed someone not to be silent, not to be afraid and to speak out. If it could happen to me, then I firmly believe there are many, many others like me all around just waiting for us to reach out to them and help them find their Lord….

…Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 10:32-12:21, Acts 18:1-22, Psalms 145:1-21, Proverbs 18:1

..one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom yo u worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. (Acts 17:23)

Thought:

I feel strongly that most of the people I know who are not church goers, think of The Lord (if they think of him at all) like the Athenian’s did as Paul addressed them. The unknown god, was one option among many, and perhaps, to the Athenians, he was a god of last resort, a kind of universal backstop god who might catch you if you fell in between the other divine departments. How true that is today. We all know that people are most likely to call out in desperate prayer when all else has failed. People often pray when facing death whether they have lived a life of faith or not. People often pray when things go wrong. It might be an everyday prayer to be spared the humiliation of being late, for example, or it could be a massive, once in a life time, save me now if your are really there, double or quits, kind of prayer. But in whatever way, regardless of how trivial or deadly serious the prayer may have been, most people have prayed at least once to “the unknown god”

Word:

Acts 17:22-31 NLT

So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

Goal:

Paul preached the Gospel message to the Athenian Counsel using language and concepts they could understand. They were not Jews, and so he didn’t try to tell them about God’s chosen messiah, God’s judge on earth the Holy Redeemer using the ancient Hebrew scriptures, or odd Christian terminology. He spoke to them about one of the Gods they already worshipped, he adopted their theology and philosophy and introduced the idea that the unknown god was actually the Lord of all the gods and the creator of all things. My goal is to persevere in my quest to find a simple and direct way to reveal the truth and life-giving power of the gospel of Jesus to my own generation who no longer know this God.

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 9:14-10:31, Acts 17:1-34, Psalms 144:1-15, Proverbs 17:27-28

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”(Ac ts 16:31)

Thought:

It sounds simple doesn’t it – all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you will be saved. Really? That’s it? In a word – yes! It is that simple but it’s simplicity doesn’t make it any easier to believe. There are many things that get in the way of belief. Here are two difficulties which I think most people can relate to. I have certainly experienced both. The first is the fact that many people have already heard, and liked the sound of what the gospel message contains, but they have then dismissed it as fantasy or fairytale. They think it just sounds too good to be true. The second difficulty is this: they see no evidence of the truth and reality of the Gospel message in action around them. In the passage below, the jailer is reduced to a trembling wreck at the feet of his two badly tortured prisoners who sang hymns after a flogging and then sat serenely in their cells after an earthquake had essentially been sent to release them. The jailer wanted to know what they knew because they had demonstrated the power and truth of their faith in God. He could see with his own eyes that their faith was clearly well founded.

Word:

Acts 16:25-34 NLT

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptised. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

Goal:

As I said, it may be simple but it is not easy. It is possible, and quite often is the case, that a person can come to believe in an instant. But just as often, it is something that builds up over time with slow and steady exposure to the gospel message. Either way, belief in God can be fragile and so it needs to be nurtured like a delicate plant in a potting shed. After the jailer had expressed his desire to be saved, Paul and Silas shared the word of the Lord with him and all in his household. My goal, as this project of mine continues, is becoming increasingly clear. I am keen to share the word of the Lord with those who have struggled to read it in the past. I want to share the word of God with those who are asking what they must do to be saved.

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 8:1-9:13, Acts 16:16-40, Psalms 143:1-12, Proverbs 17:26

Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. ( Psalm 142:5)

Thought:

I love this psalm because it captures how I feel so often. It takes the psalmist twelve lines before he turns his prayer directly to the Lord. Before that, over four verses, he complains to him about all his troubles and yet looks for someone else, some person, to help him. But no one cares. So often it takes me a while to remember to ask God. I regularly forget that no other than God, can offer me the things I need. So often I have asked the Lord to release me so that I can thank him and that others might see his glory in my release.

Word:

Psalms 142:1-7 NLT

1 I cry out to the Lord;
I plead for the Lord’s mercy.
2 I pour out my complaints before him
and tell him all my troubles.
3 When I am overwhelmed,
you alone know the way I should turn.
Wherever I go,
my enemies have set traps for me.
4 I look for someone to come and help me,
but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me;
no one cares a bit what happens to me.
5 Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.
You are all I really want in life.
6 Hear my cry, for I am very low.
Rescue me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Bring me out of prison so I can thank you.
The godly will crowd around me,
for you are good to me.”

Goal:

My goal is to take consolation that the Psalmist has been where I have been, and he has felt my pain and prayed my prayers. I want to thank God for being my place of refuge and I want to remember today, that the Lord is all I really want in life. Lord I pray that you will release me again this day from the prison that holds me against your will, and in so doing, Lord, I hope that those godly people that I know might be blessed to see that you are so good to me. Amen.

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 6:1-7:20, Acts 15:36-16:15, Psalms 142:1-7, Proverbs 17:24-25