Tags: adult Sunday School, Bible study, church attendance, excuses, reasons, Sunday mornings, Sunday School
1. Even though I can make it to work on time, get my kids up and dressed in time for school during the week, and be early enough to have time to buy popcorn and snacks when I go to the movies, there is no way I can get up, get the whole family dressed, and be on time for Sunday School on Sunday mornings.
2. The teacher keeps inviting me to class, which makes me feel embarrassed, so I’m not going.
3. The teacher doesn’t invite me often enough, which makes me feel unwanted, so I’m not going.
4. Even though the systematic study of the Bible with other believers in a local New Testament church is necessary for spiritual growth, that doesn’t apply to me. Because I’m special like that.
5. I’m really tired from having fun on Saturday, and having fun on Saturday is way more important than Sunday School – just like Jesus never said.
6. I’ve already been saved and baptized, so obedience to God is no longer necessary – just like Jesus never said.
7. It’s okay if I stay home and watch a church program on television – just like Jesus never said.
8. Even though the Bible clearly tells me that I need to attend, I’m waiting on some mystical, non-specific, open-to-my-personal-interpretation sign from God that He wants me to go. In other words, God hasn’t “laid it on my heart” to go to Sunday School.
9. If I went to Sunday School I just know I would feel “judged.” And, boy, do I hate feeling judged.
10. There would be some hypocrites in the class I’m supposed to join, and I prefer to go to places where there are no hypocrites present – like Wal-Mart – and the mall – and sporting events – and family reunions – and my workplace.
If you have read this far, you will note that I did not include the following excuses:
1. I had to work.
2. Personal illness or illness in my family.
3. Traveling out of town this week.
4. Car wouldn’t start.
5. Home or family emergency.
These are actually reasons, not excuses, and, therefore, if you have a valid reason for not attending adult Sunday School, this post was not really directed at you.
Tags: Bible lessons on Nehemiah, commentary on Nehemiah, lessons on Nehemiah, Nehemiah, Nehemiah 13, notes on Nehemiah, Sunday School lessons on Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah reminds us that, even when things seem to be at their worst, there is never a reason for God’s people to throw up their hands and quit. Even in Chapter 13, which deals with separating out those who were forbidden by law to enter into the congregation, Nehemiah saw opportunities rather than obstacles, and was not afraid to face problems head-on. He believed he was doing a great work because he was doing it for the great God. Here is a list of links to the previous lessons on Nehemiah:
1. Petitioning the King
2. Scorn, Schemes, Scoundrels, Schizophrenics, and Scares
3. The Strait Gate and the Wall that Will Not Fall *
4. Defeating Slander, Intimidation, and Discouragement
5. Beware Familial Fidelity
6. Power in Many Voices (Nehemiah 5:7)
7. Just Say (O)No *
8. Learning, Loving, and Living the Word
9. Confession and True Revival
10. The Connection between Giving and Trusting
11. Getting Kicked to the Glory of God
* most-read posts in series
Tags: commentary on Micah, crooked politicians, false prophecy, false prophets, Micah 3, politicians, poor leadership, statesmen, Sunday School lessons on Micah
In Chapter 3 Micah accused three groups of people of being false cheap imitations, and he condemned them.
1. The Princes
And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?
This is going to sound like a crazy idea, considering the age in which we live, but leaders in government are actually supposed to do what’s right. They are supposed to be statesmen instead of just politicians. Politicians think of the next election. Statesmen think about the next generation.
Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;
We know that hating good and loving evil is is an abomination to God, so he compares it to something that we think is abominable: cannibalism.
Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron. Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.
The princes looked valuable, but when they were examined closely they didn’t make the grade. They were fake leaders – they didn’t lead. They preyed upon the people they were supposed to be leading. They had been honored by God, and raised up to do good, but they behaved abominably once they came into power.
2. The Prophets
Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
The prophets were supposed to help people. Do you help someone by giving him good news or bad news? Neither, necessarily. You help someone the most by telling him the truth. These greedy, sinful prophets decided what kind of prophecy they would give based on what they were given by those who wanted to hear the prophecy. If people wanted their ears tickled, these spiritual prostitutes could be had for cheap – a little food would be enough. Imagine your pastor standing up on Sunday morning to preach, and saying, “I’m going to be preaching against some of your favorite sins next week – but if you take me to Popeyes this week, I might be inclined to change up the lesson a little bit!”
Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.
God tells them that they’ve misused their gift, so He’s going to take it away from them.
Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.
Divination – dealing with familiar spirits – was a great sin and a crime, but God calls these fake prophets diviners and seers. He would make it so that the people began to see that these charlatans had no real value. People would see that their prophecies did not come true, because God would not speak to them at all.
Micah was a different prophet. He was genuine. He did not flatter, and he could not be bought. He invited people to hold up his words next to what actually came to pass.
But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.
3. The Priests
The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.
Micah 3:11 (emphasis added)
The politicians and judges could be bribed, and the priests wanted to be paid for teaching. They taught false doctrine concerning the Covenant, claiming that it guaranteed the people’s protection even in their sin. The devil loves to counterfeit, and these counterfeit leaders were a dime a dozen – so were their favors, their prophecies, and their lessons. They gave out messages that comforted, but did not challenge, the people. Their messages could not be verified from the Word of God. The people should have learned from their experiences, but they wanted the cheap instead of the costly because of their pride and self-love.
These fake leaders would turn on the people the instant they didn’t respond the right way.
Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
Micah 3:5 (emphasis added)
They liked to tickle ears, not ruffle feathers. As Billy Sunday and Vance Havner used to say, when the cat was going the wrong way, they just started rubbing in a different direction rather than making the cat turn around. When counterfeit spirituality and greed are present together, it is a sign that Satan is at work. The false leaders in Micah’s day were judged, but the people were punished, too. God often permits people to get the types of leaders they deserve.
Tags: commentary on Exodus, Exodus 7, Exodus 8, famous plagues, gods of Egypt, plagues, Sunday School lessons on Exodus, Ten Plagues of Egypt, the Ten Plagues
We tend to think of the word “plague” as meaning a bad outbreak of disease, or some natural catastrophe that brings distress, destruction, or death to a large group of people. Therefore, it is not incorrect to call the events by which God began to deliver the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage “The Ten Plagues.”
However, the Hebrew word translated as “plagues” can also mean “blows” or “strikes.” These violent strokes from God’s hand may also be seen as “signs.” They expressed messages. They systematically stripped the Egyptians of all their hope in false gods and in their Pharaoh. Some scholars see a clear pattern of “Ten Plagues” beginning with the Nile River turning to blood and ending with the death of all the Egyptian firstborn. But others see a 1:9:1 structure, with the signs performed by Moses and Aaron in Pharoah’s court (staff-turned-to-snake) being the initial limited sign, followed by nine “nation-wide” signs, ending with the death of the first born as more of a deliverance-judgment than a “sign.”
In either case, the plagues/signs that God performed through the prayers and announcements of Moses and Aaron consistently increased in severity, even as Pharaoh’s heart appears to have grown harder and harder in response. First, the Nile River was turned to blood.
Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.
And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also. And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river. And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.
This plague was not limited in its effect against the Egyptians only, the way later plagues would be, but it did show God’s power over the false god, Hapi, the supposed god of the Nile River. It was duplicated on a minor scale by the Egyptian magicians – whether by demonic (but far lesser) power or by deceptive sleight of hand.
Next came the plague of frogs.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
The Egyptians had their own god, Heqt, who was supposed to be in charge of the frogs, so this, too, was a direct assault on their belief system.
And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
Obviously, their frog deity was no match for the true God.
The third plague involved lice.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
This was the first of the plagues that was not pre-announced to Pharaoh, and I could not find any specific reference to a “lice-god” in Egypt. However, we do know that the Egyptians were obsessed with personal hygiene, and, despite the fact that Pharaoh and his officers would most likely have practiced the shaving of not only their heads and eyebrows, but also all their body hair, and yet still found themselves infested with lice, this would have been most distressing.
The fourth plague was a plague of flies (the biting kind).
And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
There had become a clear delineation in the way that the plagues were affecting only the Egyptians, and sparing the Israelites, although they occupied the same geographical location. Obviously these were not “natural disasters” produced by blind chance, coincidence, or an undesigned chain reaction spurred by algae in the Nile River. Nor could the Egyptian fly god, Uatchit, stop the flies, any more than Apis (the bull god) could heal the dying cattle (fifth plague); or Sekhment (goddess of healing) stop the boils which broke out on men and beasts (sixth plague); or Seth (god of crops) and Nut (god of the sky) do anything whatsoever to abate the worst hailstorm known to man (seventh plague). Pharaoh was willfully blind to the obvious, but God was not finished yet.
Tags: 1 John 1, confessing sins, confession, divine revalation, Ezra 10, God speaks, hearing, parables, revelation
Last time we thought about preparing to hear from God by intentionally getting R.eady. Now we will focus on being:
Receptive means willing to receive. God doesn’t speak to people so that they can evaluate it and determine whether it might be true. We need to be receptive to hearing from God in two ways:
1. Accept what God says.
We need to believe – not reject – what God says. Jesus would sometimes say, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear,” because not everybody wanted to hear from Jesus for the right reasons. The Pharisees wanted to evaluate His Words or find fault with Him so they could accuse Him. His parables made sense to those who were ready to receive the truth.
2. Agree with God.
Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
Ezra 10:11 (emphasis added)
Confession is not admitting you got caught. It’s agreeing with God – that what He says about anything is right, including what He says about you and me.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:9 (emphasis added)
Next time, we will think about being responsive in our preparation to hear from God.
Tags: divine revelation, Job 38, prayer, Proverbs 23, Psalm 119, Psalm 78, revelation, Word of God
If you work in a Christian environment, or attend a Christian school, or live in a Christian home, I would assume that you are presented with multiple opportunities throughout the week – sometimes throughout the day – to hear from God. This is a great privilege, but we often take it for granted. God had no obligation whatsoever to speak to you. He is not lonely, bored, or depressed. When God decided to speak to you and me, we call this “condescension.” It’s when someone bigger and smarter and more important than you takes an interest in you even though you don’t necessarily want anything to do with Him. It’s a stooping down to our level. If God – the greatest, most magnificent, most majestic Being in all of existence – would condescend to speak to you, wouldn’t you want to hear what He has to say? To pay attention?
These lessons are about three “R”s, but not “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic.” These are a different three R’s. They stand for how you and I should approach the idea of the Lord speaking to us:
We know a great deal about getting ready. Students do it before school in the morning (hopefully). They do it before a test (hopefully). People get serious about it before a big a social event. But when we know that we are going to have a chance to hear from God – whether we are coming to a church service or getting ready to read our Bibles – we need to really prepare to hear from God in two specific ways:
Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Hearing from God is not a time to be silly. It’s serious, because He is holding you and me accountable for what He says.
Next time, we will think about being receptive in our preparation to hear from God.
Tags: 1 Kings 5, building the Temple, Cinco de Mayo Bible lessons, Cinco de Mayo devotions, David, enthusiasm, King Solomon, missed opportunities, providence, Solomon
David wanted to build a house in which the presence of the Lord could dwell (II Samuel 7:1-3), but the Lord wanted David’s son to be the one to build it (II Samuel 7:4-13). David’s son Solomon became king, and at the appointed time he determined to fulfill the promise which the Lord had made to his father.
And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name.
I Kings 5:5
When the opportunity came for Solomon to accomplish this sacred duty, he recognized that the providence of God was at work. He also remembered – and relied upon – the promise of God to help him accomplish it.
As Christians we must remember that the Spirit of God which brought us to Christ does not thereafter lie dormant in our lives until our time to go to Heaven. He has decreed good works for us to accomplish during our temporary sojourn in this wicked world. We certainly don’t want to miss these opportunities! Our task is to remember this promise, to get excited about it, and to seek to accomplish it in God’s power. When enthusiasm and expectation meet providence and purpose, great things are accomplished and God is glorified.
Tags: commentary on Nehemiah, greatness of God, Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah 12, Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah 4, Nehemiah 6, Nehemiah 8, overcoming obstacles, Sunday School lessons on Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah demonstrates the greatness of God. God chose Nehemiah to do a great work. He didn’t choose him because of his training, background, or aptitude, but Nehemiah did recognize the greatness of God.
And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
In Nehemiah God’s people go from great affliction and reproach to great joy.
And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
Difficult situations are opportunities to show God’s greatness. We see obstacles when really they’re great opportunities. Nehemiah could have heard the bad news about Jerusalem, and seen a big problem. Do you look at the seats in your local church and get discouraged about how many are empty? Or do you look at those empty seats and get excited about the great opportunity to see them filled? One of the ways that Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God was not because God made it so that Nehemiah had no problems, but rather because God caused Nehemiah to overcome his problems. If Nehemiah had done it on his own, he would have received the glory, not God.
Some people say, “If God is so great, why is he letting my enemies kick my behind?” They forget that getting your behind kicked means you are walking in the lead. Some of us need to start something for God that’s too big for us to finish on our own – so everyone will know it’s God and not us when it gets accomplished.
Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God because he was attacked by enemies.
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
Nehemiah 2:18 (emphasis added)
That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God, and this caused him to say, “Oh yes,” instead of “Oh no.” Don’t go down there into the plain of “Ono (Oh no).” If you are doing the work of a great God, you don’t have to compromise with the world to get it done. How do you think those mocking, scorning enemies of God felt when they saw the celebration – even standing on the very wall they had tried to prevent? They felt ashamed, but they must have also thought, “What a great God.”
Tags: commentary on Micah, disappointment, discernment, false prophecy, Micah 1, Micah 2, revelation of God, strategy of Satan, Sunday School lessons on Micah
Micah was prophesying to a people with whom God had made a covenant. But He was letting them know that the fact of being in covenant with God does not excuse two sins in particular.
One was covetousness.
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.
The second was false prophecy.
Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame. O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the LORD straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?
Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction. If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.
Prophets who are truly sent from God are seldom popular. One of the marks of a false prophet is that, in telling people they are good, he is loved by the people. Satan had been at work in the false prophets being addressed by Micah. In the Old Testament, we can often identify Satan trying to do two things: one, trying to contaminate or kill off the line of the Messiah before His birth; two, trying to kill the Jewish people in general. The sins of covetousness/greed and counterfeiting God’s words (false prophecy) are two of Satan’s favorites. Micah did not bring God’s judgment upon the people. He foretold it. He was the messenger, not the destroyer.
Micah 2:7 asks if the Spirit of the Lord is “straightened?” The people didn’t want to hear any true prophecies. They only wanted prophecies that were “happy,” but God’s Spirit is not straightened just because people don’t want to hear Him. God can reveal Himself through means other than prophets. Christians should be so excited about God’s Word that we can’t help but tell about others about it, even though we are not receiving new, immediate, private revelations from God. The Bible itself, and its sufficiency, reveals God to us. Creation, and even the scientific study of it, should reveal God to us. Our consciences, when they are sensitive to the Spirit, will reveal God at work in us.
For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.
If we are waiting for “good,” and then we perceive that “bad” comes to us instead, it is a recipe for disappointment. We must be careful, for disappointment can be a form of blaming God. The Bible says that “evil came down from the Lord,” because the people were looking for good somewhere else besides God. We should we look for good to come from the Lord, and, even better, we ought to just to look for the Lord Himself to come. Whether He brings good or evil from our perspective, it will really be good, because it will be His will.
Tags: 5th Anniversary, anniversaries, anniversary, battles, Biblical Violence, devotions, Jeopardy, violence in the Bible, warfare
Tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of The Deep End. During the past five years I have enjoyed studying Scripture and writing posts based on the Truth of God’s Word. As always, He has been exceedingly gracious to allow me to continue. I pray and hope that what readers find here will be challenging, thought-provoking, comforting, and profitable, and that the Lord Jesus will be magnified and exalted. The Lord is certainly the Prince of Peace, but I have learned that He is also passionate and zealous. These things are not mutually contradictory, but the result is that – more often than we think – God deals in the reality of clashing perspectives and strong emotions. It’s one of the lesser-known facts of Christian theology that the God of peace sometimes works through violent conflict.
In honor of this anniversary (and in recognition that Jeopardy is now ripping off my blog for category clues!) I am posting the links to the category called Biblical Violence:
1. The God-Mastered Man
2. When God Condones Violence
3. Panicked Pressing
4. Frightening Words
5. The Grudge-Match of the Century: The Lion of God vs. Double-Wicked Cushan
6. Up for the Count
7. The One that Didn’t Get Away
8. The Raptor and the Captor
9. Righteous Jealousy
10. Eternal Destruction
11. Faithful Wounds
12. Faithful Wounds Part 2
13. Stand Your Ground *
14. Breaching Reality
15. Are You Struggling?
16. Smiting the Gods
17. Evil Angels
18. Beware the Fight with the Flesh
19. Beware Falling Formations
20. Beware the Feeble Fortress
21. Beware the Flattened Fence
22. Beware the Fearful Force
23. Beware the Facial Fall
24. The Bold Pair in the Enemy’s Lair (Part 1)
25. The Bold Pair in the Enemy’s Lair (Part 2)
26. Beware the Flagging Finishers
*most-read post in category