Away with Idols

Since the days of Solomon, the Israelites had wrestled with idolatry and heinous sin. They worshiped false gods, practiced temple prostitution and even offered their children as sacrifices, as horrible as that sounds. In order to lead the people out of their immorality, King Josiah ordered the destruction of all idols and altars. He removed the visible temptations that might have enticed people to return to idolatry.

We can make idols of many things, including money, power and sex. To destroy our idols, we may need to ask God to give us a different attitude toward money and success. We may need to simplify our lives and reorder our priorities. We may have to address our lust or craving for big-boy toys. We need to remove the temptations that lure us down the road of idolatry.

2 Kings 23:24

Taken from NIV Busy Dad’s Bible

Reflection from Romans

On our own, we just don’t have the power to get it all together. We know right from wrong, we know what we should and shouldn’t do, but we have a hard time doing the right thing. This reality is uncomfortable for believers who are trying to put God’s Word into practice. While we know what we should do, on our own we just can’t do it.

That’s what the book of Romans is all about. As long as we keep trying to do things in our own power, driven by our own self-will, we’ll always fail. We need to plug in to Christ’s power in order to experience victory over our hurts, hang-ups and habits. As long as we keep trying on our own, we’ll encounter nothing but frustration and failure. But when we accept Christ’s power, we’ll find out that there is truly no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:1).

Romans 13:12-13

Taken from NIV Celebrate Recovery Bible

But Lord!

“Yes, Mom, I hear you! I’ll get my homework done and unload the dishwasher before I watch TV.” Brent looked his mom straight in the eyes and repeated her instructions. Marlene had to work the third shift this week, and she wouldn’t be around when Brent got home from school. Later, when she inspected her son’s work, she realized he hadn’t followed all of her directions. When she confronted him, Brent rolled his eyes and said, “But, Mom, I didn’t think you meant all of it!” Walking away in disgust, she muttered, “Where did I go wrong?”

Marlene sounds a little like Samuel when he expressed God’s grief over Saul’s misbehavior: “I regret that I have made Saul king.” Samuel, God’s messenger on earth, had given Saul clear instructions: Wipe out all of the Amalekites and take no plunder. No exceptions.

But Saul’s actions revealed his self-willed heart: “But, Lord, I didn’t think you meant all of them!” God’s commands didn’t fit Saul’s plans, so he tweaked them to fit his convenience.

We’re all a little like Saul. We all fall into the “but, Lord” trap.

I know your grace is sufficient, but, Lord, I think I’ll take the easy way out.

But, Lord, why can’t I tell five of my best friends about what happened?

But, Lord, surely flirting isn’t cheating.

But, Lord, this “friendship” helps me escape my boring life.

But, Lord, overeating isn’t hurting anyone else, is it?

We dig ourselves in deeper when, instead of squelching temptation, we turn toward it. The turn starts when, like Saul, we respond to God’s promptings within us with “But, Lord . . .” and we then reject “the word of the Lord.” The more frequently we make that turn, the more we fool ourselves that we are innocent.

Our daily lives present us with ample opportunity to choose God’s leading or to reject it. Saul chose to disobey, and it cost him the kingdom. Jesus chose to obey, and he gained the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The only “but” believers should utter is the one Christ taught us to pray, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39, emphasis added).

1 Samuel 15:11

Taken from NIV Women’s Devotional Bible

Don’t Give In

This verse applies to either a son or daughter and, like never before, we need to talk openly and age-appropriately about how sin is enticing. Sin is perceived crazy fun — for a season. It may taste good in the moment, but its bitter taste in the end will sour any memories of the fun and leave people incredibly empty.

For most parents, this is a lesson we can teach because of our own struggles with the enticement of sin. Now that you’ve matured, remember those struggles whenever you are trying to get your children to understand your rants and lectures. It’s easy to forget the sins of our youth, although sometimes lingering consequences will remind us of the past and can be painful. But when you recall those times, think of them as a way of understanding what your children are experiencing.

Seek to help them understand how only the power of Christ can protect them and prevent them from giving in to sin!

Parenting Principle

If it looks, smells, tastes and woos — be careful. It probably bites!

Proverbs 1:10

Taken from Once a Day Nurturing Great Kids

Happily Ever After

*Will you read a book or watch a movie if you know it has an unhappy ending? Explain.

*What are you looking forward to most in heaven? Why?

When you’re grieving, the hurt and sorrow can seem endless. Wave after wave of pain crashes down on you. You can feel your strength draining away. In times like these, it’s natural to ask, “Will it ever end?” The good news? The answer is yes. Revelation 21 gives us a glimpse of eternity in heaven — and grief, pain and suffering are nowhere in sight.

The reason is simple. In heaven there will be no more death. Unlike earth, where best friends, beloved grandparents, friendly neighbors, young kids and countless really, really good people die every day, heaven is all living, all the time.

That may not seem like much of a consolation to someone who’s suffered a devastating loss here on earth. But if we hold on to that truth — if we trust that God always keeps his promises — we will find comfort.

Revelation 21:3

Taken from Once a Day At the Table

A Friend to Comfort

*If you were in pain, which friend (or friends) would you want by your side? Why?

*Which friend would you definitely not want around when you’re in pain? Why?

After Job lost his family and possessions, three of his friends came to comfort him. We can learn a lot — good and bad — from their example. The first thing Job’s friends did right was to visit Job in person. They didn’t send a card wishing him well. They didn’t let their discomfort or awkwardness keep them away. They went to grieve with him.

They also gave Job the space he needed to grieve. Job 2:13 says Job’s friends sat in silence for seven days and seven nights. They saw how badly Job was hurting, and they were content to grieve quietly with him. They gave him time to process his thoughts and feelings. They didn’t try to force a conversation.

That’s not to say Job’s friends did everything right. In their arrogance, they were convinced they knew the reason for his suffering. They believed Job was being punished for sin and kept urging him to repent. They were wrong, and as a result, they added to his misery.

Let’s learn from the example of Job’s friends. Each of us will have opportunities to help friends who are hurting. The way we respond to those opportunities will say a lot about us and about the God we serve.

Job 2:12-13

Taken from Once a Day At the Table

The Locksmith

Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon points out the futility of life. He walks down several paths as he looks for meaning in life — pleasure, wealth, wisdom, work. Not many of us will ever possess the time or the resources to do the kind of searching that Solomon did, so this book gives us the benefit of his experience and allows us to peek at the end of the story. His conclusion? No matter how hard we try to manufacture meaning in life, time passes and we all die.

But don’t despair! Solomon directs us to the ultimate source for finding meaning in life: knowing and living with God.

Think of unanswered questions as doors that slam in our faces. With gut-wrenching accuracy, Solomon forces us to look at our lives and recognize that these obstacles exist. But instead of trying to supply us with keys to open those doors by ourselves, Solomon points us to God, the Locksmith who promises to help us find a way. Ultimately, true meaning in life can be found only in a relationship with God — a relationship that is the “duty of all mankind” (verse 13).

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Taken from NIV The Journey Bible

Praise for Despair

God grows beautiful things out of the soil of pain.  The Gospel of Luke records how Jesus read from a scroll of Isaiah when he was in the synagogue at his hometown of Nazareth shortly after he began his ministry (see Luke 4:14 – 21). Jesus was clearly applying those centuries-old words about the Messiah to himself. Here’s the full passage from which Jesus read:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:1 – 3).

The mission statement Jesus was announcing will be completely fulfilled when he returns and sets the world right again. But Jesus’ mission now includes taking the “ashes” of suffering and replacing them with “a crown of beauty” — right in the middle of our pain. He is that good.

When you come to God broken and hurting, he will pour his wholeness into your brokenness. You can come to him hopeless, and as you meet with him, he will remind you that he hasn’t abandoned you, that you’re not alone. He will give you his hope right in the midst of your pain.

You can come to God deeply grieving. In your grief, he will remind you of the truth that he is working for your good and that one day he will restore all things. And many times, just by sitting with him, you’ll experience deep joy even as you hurt.

It’s not that Jesus just fixes everything instantly when you sit with him. He doesn’t. It’s not that he makes the pain evaporate; he doesn’t do that either. He stands with you in your pain. He lets you feel his presence. He gives you himself. And that depth of comfort, that closeness of a Friend, brings beauty, joy and peace to your hurting heart.

Isaiah 42:1-4

Taken from NIV The Great Rescue Bible

Offering Words of Hope and Healing

Naaman’s Slave Girl

She flashed into the story and out again, making a single suggestion. Evidently her words were significant enough that God included them in his Word. Raiders from Aram had ripped a young Israelite girl from her home and family. The resulting anguish and grief were not recorded, but the terror and pain were surely felt. She landed in the household of a highly regarded man named Naaman, the commander of Aram’s army, serving Naaman’s wife.

The king of Aram admired Naaman because “through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy” (2 Kings 5:1). The word leprosy was used for a wide variety of skin diseases, and we don’t know which form it took with Naaman. But any kind of “leprosy” was unwelcome and potentially fatal.

Even though Naaman was her foreign master, the Hebrew girl felt sorry for him, which may indicate that she was treated well in his home. One day she said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3).

That’s it! That’s all she said. But her mysterious, surprising words of hope prompted Naaman to seek out the prophet Elisha in Israel, and Naaman was healed by the power of God. The fact that Naaman followed her advice may also indicate that she had garnered the admiration of Naaman and his wife by her godly service.

You, too, can speak words of hope and healing to others through godly service, in spite of your own pain and anguish.

2 Kings 5:1-5

Taken from Fulfilled

Any Grief

When Job’s friends first visited him after hearing the news of his troubles, they were so overwhelmed that they just sat with him in silence. By the end of the book you’ll realize that this was their finest hour! For when they started to talk, they changed from caring friends to amateur theologians — and became next to useless.

Have you ever approached a suffering friend and thought, What can I say? Don’t feel that you necessarily have to say anything! Just be with that person. Come alongside and, if need be, sit in silence with them. In the early stages of grief, your silent but supportive presence is one of the best responses to a friend’s suffering that you can give.

Job 2:13

Taken from NIV The Journey Bible