April 14, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 17:24-41

What did you think when you read today’s reading?  The king of Assyria sent new people to come and live in towns of Samaria replacing the people of Israel.  These foreign settlers did not worship the Lord – so God sent lions to come and kill them. When the king realized this – he ordered one of the Jewish priests to go back and live among them and teach them to worship God.  One of the first missionaries… He did, and the people began to worship God – what an INCREDIBLE thing! The problem was they also continued to worship all of their pagan gods too. They worshiped both God and idols. Hard to imagine isn’t it?

But wait – isn’t that what we do too?  Don’t we come to Jesus and “give Him our lives”.  Don’t we declare through baptism that we’re on His team and He’s the Lord and Master of our lives?  But don’t we continue to live for ourselves – doing what we want – continuing to make some of the very same choices we made before we met Him?  Don’t we worship “idols” called:

The Idol of Sports

The Idol of My Job

The Idol of My Possessions

The Idol of My Pet Sin

How does God feel about idols?

You shall have no other gods before Me.  Exodus 20:3 (one of the 10 Commandments)

You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God.  Leviticus 26:1

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

What are the idols that rival for God’s place in your heart and life?  What can you do today to put them to death?

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

April 13, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 17:1-23

Unfortunately for many of us, even those of us growing up in the church, we have a black hole in the middle of our Bible’s. It’s a place where few ever tread; and those who do, seem to become stuck, preferring to move quickly to the comfortable, well-known, texts of the New Testament. The black hole that I’m referring to is the part of the Old Testament after Proverbs and before the book of Matthew. That section of your Bible that is most likely pristine with no ruffled pages or notes in the margin.

Part of the reason for the confusion of the wisdom and prophetic books of the Old Testament is that we don’t understand when they were written, thus we don’t grasp the context. As we’ve been taking a stroll through the books of 2nd Kings, I hope you’re realizing (if you never have before) that most of the black hole books were written during the books of 1st and 2nd Kings. Much like Acts is telling the history of the Church, and most of the following books occur at some point during the book of Acts, so also, most of the prophetic book of the OT occur during the reign of the kings of the divided kingdoms.  

To set our story in it’s context, check out the Bible Project video on YouTube.

Our passage today picks up at about 6 minutes 25 seconds. As you can tell, our passage is a vital part of the story of the Bible. Chapter 17 is when 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel are basically abolished. Why?

Tom Constable’s notes on this passage provide a very clear list of the sins of Israel of which they never repented, despite the many warnings of the prophets.

(1) They feared other gods (v. 7; cf. Exod. 20:3; Judg. 6:10).

(2) They adopted Canaanite customs (v. 8; cf. Lev. 18:3; Deut. 18:9).

(3) They adopted customs condemned by the Mosaic Law (v. 8; cf. 16:3; 17:19).

(4) They practiced secret sins (v. 9).

(5) They built pagan high places (v. 9; cf. Deut. 12:2-7, 13-14).

(6) They made many sacred pillars and Asherim (v. 10; cf. Exod. 34:12-14).

(7) They burned incense to other gods (v. 11).

(8) They did evil things that provoked Yahweh (v. 11).

(9) They served idols (v. 12; cf. Exod. 20:4).

(10) They refused to heed God’s warnings (vv. 13-14).

(11) They became obstinate (v. 14; cf. Exod. 32:9; 33:3).

(12) They rejected God’s statutes (v. 15).

(13) They rejected God’s covenant (v. 15; cf. Exod. 24:6-8; Deut. 29:25).

(14) They pursued vanity (v. 15; cf. Deut. 32:21).

(15) They became vain (v. 15).

(16) They followed foreign nations (v. 15; cf. Deut. 12:30-31).

(17) They forsook Yahweh’s commandments (v. 16).

(18) They made molten calves (v. 16; cf. Exod. 20:4).

(19) They made an Asherah (v. 16; cf. Exod. 20:4).

(20) They worshipped the stars (v. 16; cf. Deut. 4:15, 19; Amos 5:26).

(21) They served Baal (v. 16).

(22) They practiced child sacrifice (v. 17; cf. Lev. 18:21; Deut. 12:31).

(23) They practiced witchcraft (v. 17; cf. Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10-12).

(24) They sold themselves to do evil (v. 17; cf. 21:20).

Though God allowed Judah to remain, she was not innocent (v. 19).

The cult of Jeroboam was a major source of Israel’s apostasy (vv. 21-22).

(From Constable’s Notes on Lumina.bible.org, a great free online resource for personal Bible study)  

Reflection Questions:

What is there in my life that my heart longs for more than God?

Is there anything in my life that I need to confess and repent of?

What are the consequences of confession and repentance? What are the consequences of failing to confess and repent?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

April 12, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 16

This chapter falls on a great week. We started the series on Nehemiah, and were challenged to examine and assess our spiritual condition. The connection to this passage is that we are reading about Ahaz. He let idols and sin control his life and send him spiraling away from God.

This idolatry went so far that Ahaz burned his own son as a sacrifice to the god Molech. Something that stands out other than this tragic aspect, is how when we let our lives be dictated by anything other than God we end up in a place that is not right for us. The reason this is true is because we stop leaning on God, and we think that we can find answers and help elsewhere. In Ahaz’s case, when he ran into some problems instead of turning to God, he decided to go to his new overlord instead. The result was the annexation of a large portion of Northern Israel and the death of Rezin and Pekah.

When our lives go unchecked we will only get farther and farther from the Lord and further enveloped by the world. Ahaz eventually gets to a point where his religion is full-fledged syncretism with the pagan religions in other nations, He desecrates the temple, loses all obedience to the Lord, and in turn loses God’s blessings and protection.

It is a sad thing when we choose anything other than God in our lives, because nothing in this world is capable of being God except for God. So today I want to just send a reminder out to evaluate yourself and do the spiritual inventory that Tim spoke about if you haven’t already. And if you are willing we would love to hear how it is going.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

April 11, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 15

Today we read about the reign of different kings in Israel and Judah (expected from the name of the book). We’ll focus on one king today: Azariah, also known as Uzziah.

Uzziah did “what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight” (v.3), but he did not destroy the “pagan shrines”(v.4). These pagan places of worship are called “high places” in other translations like the ESV because they were often on a mountain or hilltop.

Uzziah followed the one true God personally, but he didn’t lead the people of Judah to follow Him. It says in the next verse (v.5) that the Lord “struck the king with leprosy” possibly as a punishment for disobedience in destroying the high places. Uzziah and the people of Israel were breaking the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-6:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (ESV, emphasis added)

If the people of Judah were to love the Lord with all their heart and soul and might, then there must be no worship of any other god. The LORD is a “jealous God” (Exodus 34:14), meaning that He will not tolerate the worship of anyone or anything else. Uzziah failed to love the Lord with all his heart and soul and might, disobeying the greatest commandment. Sure, he did “what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight,” but he was a man who practiced partial obedience. However, partial obedience is really just disobedience. Uzziah should have done “what he was told, when he was told, with the right heart attitude.” Obedience is the natural outflow of a love for God.

Love for God is a command as we see above. How can love be commanded? Near the end of Uzziah’s life, we see the prophet Isaiah receiving a vision from the Lord that I think answers that question. Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on His throne with seraphim (mighty angels) surrounding Him calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3, ESV).

Isaiah understands the holiness of God and then realizes his sinfulness and the sinfulness of the people of Judah. He says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;” (Isaiah 6:5, ESV), but God was faithful to cleanse Isaiah of his messy sinfulness. “…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7, ESV). It is the same for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, taking our place, and paying the debt that we owed to God. We were lost and people of unclean lips, but through Jesus, our “guilt is taken away” and our “sin atoned for.”

God can command us in Scripture to love him because of who He is (holy) and what He has done for us (cleansed us from all unrighteousness, cf. 1 John 1:9).

Do you love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might? (I often find I don’t. Take a serious look at yourself today.)

In what ways do you practice partial obedience?

By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice