Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pew Poll on Religion in America

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 Americans. Pew released demographic data in February from the survey, conducted May through August 2007.
  • The survey finds U.S. adults believe overwhelmingly (92%) in God, and 58% say they pray at least once a day. But the study's authors say there's a "stunning" lack of alignment between people's beliefs or practices and their professed faiths.
  • 78% overall say there are "absolute standards of right and wrong," but only 29% rely on their religion to delineate these standards.
  • The majority (52%) turn to "practical experience and common sense," with 9% relying on philosophy and reason, and 5% on scientific information.
  • 74% say "there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded," but far fewer (59%) say there's a "hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished."
  • 70%, including a majority of all major Christian and non-Christian religious groups except Mormons, say "many religions can lead to eternal life."
  • 68% say "there's more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion."
  • 44% want to preserve their religion's traditional beliefs and practices.
  • But most Catholics (67%), Jews (65%), mainline Christians (56%) and Muslims (51%) say their religion should either "adjust to new circumstances" or "adopt modern beliefs and practices."
  • 50% say "homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society," but the most consistently traditional religious groups say society should discourage it — 76% of Jehovah's Witnesses, 68% of Mormons, 61% of Muslims and 64% of evangelicals.
  • 51% have a certain belief in a personal God, but 27% are less certain of this, 14% call God "an impersonal force," and 5% reject any kind of God.
  • 14% of all surveyed, including 28% of evangelicals, say religion is the "main influence in their political thinking."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Daily Bible Readings - 2 Kings 25

When you come to the end of 2 Kings, you come to the final end of Israel and the temple. Jerusalem is about to be finally destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The people in the city are completely without food. The seize has gone on for months, when suddenly the Babylonians break into the city. When that happens the armies of Jerusalem panic and flee the city. They slipped past the armies of Nebuchadnezzar which completely surrounded the city. A question could be raised at this point, "how did they escape?" The Lord was not yet finished with the army of Israel.

In their panic they moved by the way of Arabah. It was in Arabah that Moses preached the sermons to the people in the book of Deuteronomy. All the great truths of God were delivered to the people in Arabah.

They come to the plains of Jericho and at this point the Babylonians catch up with them and capture the king of Judah and finish off his army. The plains of Jericho is where it all started. Joshua 4:13 says, "they crossed for battle before the Lord to the desert plains of Jericho." Now it is the place where is all comes to an end. What an appropriate finish for the nation of Israel. The fall of the nation takes place at the beginning point of the nation.

Moses had said to the people, "So keep and do them (the promises of God), for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’" (Deut 4:13).

On this day, the thought is simply, "what a foolish and weak people." The nation is now destroyed and its people are now in exile. The fall happend where it started!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Daily Bible Reading - 1 King 22

The life of Josiah is such an amazing story. His father, Manasseh, was a very evil man who seduced an entire nation away from the Lord. He was a young child when his dad died. His father had humbled himself before God at the end of his life. His father's repentance may have had a very positive impact on his son. The Bible says of Josiah, "he did not turn aside to the left or to the right."

As Josiah became a young man leading the nation, he order the temple to be repaired. In the midst of the repair, they found the "book of the law." It was read to Josiah and it broke his heart. The nation had been living in rebellion for many years and were guilty of horrible sins against the Lord God. The Word of God had been lost and forgotten! Josiah understood the consequences of such actions. Instead of hopelessness, he humbled himself just like his dad and he sought the Lord God.

The word from God to Josiah speaks volumes about this young man. God said of Josiah that his heart was tender and that he was a humble man. He was broken over the rebellion of the people. Josiah was a good man who truly loved the Lord. He did the one important action that is critical to life, no matter the circumstances. He humbly sought the Lord in prayer.

The Lord's response to Josiah was "I have truly heard you." James says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." What the church needs today is for humbled people to truly seek the Lord with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength. In Josiah's day, it had been a long time since someone was truly broken over the sin in the land!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Daily Bible Reading - Number 22

In reading Numbers 22 we will see that Balaam is guilty of three mistakes. The first is that he puts himself in a place to fall. God had already told him "no" yet he keeps coming back because he wants the money. By staying close to the temptation and not fleeing from evil, Balaam eventually succumbs to the temptation and though he could not curse Israel, he teaches Balak how to cause the Israelites to be curse by God.

The second mistake is that he lost complete perspective of who he was in the Lord. He was a prophet of God. The Lord had entrusted him with words to speak. When Balaam blessed people, they were blessed. And when he cursed people, they were cursed. Balaam knew the power of God and that he could not go against the Lord. But somewhere the love of money becomes the draw that makes him forget that He belongs to the Lord. The craving for the world overrode his desire to be pleasing to the Father.

The third mistake that he makes is that he is hoping God would change His mind. This is a mistake that I believe most of us make. We know God's word, but maybe for this moment God will allow this to happen for me. He will change His nature and His purpose so that I can have my desires fulfilled. Balaam over and over is looking for God to change his mind so that he can have the money.

The man of God loses his wisdom because of his greed. Peter says that when the donkey rebuked Balaam, the donkey was restraining the insanity of the prophet. We become foolish and crazy when we are dictated by our desires! That is why the continue call to all God's people is "Seek first his kingdom and his righeousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Daily Bible Readings - John 15:22-24

Jesus makes a fascinating comment about the world. The sinfulness of the heart can be hidden well. It sometimes takes much light to expose the real desires of the heart. The religious leaders of Jesus day gave overwhelming evidence of their goodness until Jesus walked into their lives. Jesus exposes their hearts by his very presence. Light always does that!

John 15:24 says, "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well." The works of Jesus exposed their hearts and cause them to act according to their hearts. They appeared religious, but the works of Jesus revealed the deep hatred that they had hidden well from others.

Light always reveals the hidden secrets of the heart. No one is hidden from the eyes of our Lord. He knows our hearts. The Lord will walk us along paths that will evenutally reveal the motives of our hearts.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bible Study - Numbers 22 - Balaam

Balaam was a prophet of God. He had a great reputation because of the work that he had done. The messenger from Balak said to Balaam, "For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed." This comes from a reputation that God's hand was on Balaam. God trusted Balaam with truth and Balaam had been faithful to his calling.

Balaam says to the messengers, "let me pray about this." He comes back and says, "God says no and I will not come." That should have been the end of the story. But it is not. But Balak sends another group to see Balaam. Why are the coming back? Did they sense that Balaam would come if the offer was right?

The King sends a second group to Balaam. This group has more men, more distinguished, and there is more money. In fact the offer is open to whatever Balaam desires! We now starts the tragic fall of Balaam. He says he needs to ask God (sounds good).

What has changed from the last time? There is more money on the table this time. Balaam knows God's response, but yet he comes back in prayer. WHY? He wants the money! He wants to get closer to this situation, because he will do well financially if circumstances were to change. We know from 2 Peter that Balaam's weakness was the love of money.

There are times that we do not need to pray about something, we just need to be obedient to the word of God.

God's answer to Balaam was to go, that is what Balaam wanted. Balaam's heart was not for the Lord but for the money.

1 Timothy 6:10 - For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Just another sad story about a man whose greed brought him to a tragic finish.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Daily Bible Reading - 1 King 21

You Can't Have Everything

Ahab one day looks out and suddenly has a desire for Naboth's vineyard. Life was not going well for the King and he was depressed. When we become tired by life we become susceptible to temptation. Ahab nows wants Naboth's garden. It will make him feel better about himself.

So Ahab tries to negotiate for the vineyard. Naboth says "No!". The reason was that Naboth was following the Word of God. Leviticus 25:23 - ‘The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me." There are something in life that we cannot have. No amount of money or power gives us the right to them. Ahab eventually allows his desires to overwhelm doing what is right.

This is a pivotal turning point to the complete and total downfall of the King of Israel. Elijah will come soon and speak a final word of judgment from God.

It took just one tired and frustrated day to lead to the final fall of a king! Beware that you are most susceptible to evil on days when you are the most tired by life.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Daily Scripture Reading - 1 King 17
Elijah tells Ahab that there will be no rain for three years. As soon as he speaks these words to Ahab, the Lord sends him away to hide by the brook Cherith. While there, the Lord provides bread for Elijah by ravens. The providing of bread to Elijah is by a bird that is a scavenger. They will literally eat anything. We have to remember that all of creation is under the command of our Lord. The ravens do not eat the bread, but bring it to Elijah. The Lord provision is also seen by the protection that God has given to Elijah from Ahab. In the next chapter when Elijah meets the prophet Obadiah, we learn another truth of God's provision. Obadiah tells Elijah that there is not a nation or kingdom that Ahab has not searched for Elijah. The entire three years Elijah is just east of the Jordan river. Our Lord provides food, water, and shelter to Elijah in the midst of a three year drought.
The words of Jesus are very appropriate at this point. Matthew 6: 31Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Daily Bible Readings - 1 King 16
Hiel the Bethelite started an ambitious project - rebuilding the city of Jericho. What started out as an ambitious project suddenly turned into a double tragedy. When Hiel started work on the foundation of the city, his son Abiram died. When he started work on the city gate, his son Segub died. The oldest son and the youngest son both died at the start of the project.

What is going on? You will have to go back a few years when Jericho fell, Joshua spoke a curse against the city.

Joshua 6:26 - Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.”

550 years later, this has not been forgotten by our Lord. Our Lord knows all that is going on and does not forgot any of the promises of His word. No detail of life slips by our Lord. Therefore our response should be to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness! The Lord will take care of the small details of life.