Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Book of Isaiah by Eleanor Lewis

Prophets were men called by God to ‘foretell’ the future and/or ‘tell forth’ a message from God.  Isaiah is like the entire Bible in miniature!  Its message is salvation.  That word appears 26 times in this book.  Visiting the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem I was moved to hear they found a complete ancient copy of Isaiah and that there are more ancient copies of it than any other book. How gracious of God to provide this message of hope to a lost world!

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah show man’s need of salvation. Like the 39 Old Testament books, these chapters show God’s holiness and how He will judge people who are not holy.   Because Israel brought sacrifices, celebrated feasts and prayed they appeared religious; however, God says they were a sinful nation, rebelling against Him and executing plans, but not His.  They acted corruptly even worshiping idols they made; therefore, God found their religious offerings abominable and did not listen to their prayers.    Like us, they needed a Savior to wash them white as snow. 

The last 27 chapters of Isaiah, like the 27 New Testament books, present God’s provision of salvation.  Isaiah looked forward to the Messiah as Jesus is clearly foretold in chapters 40-66.  Messiah is clearly seen as a shepherd who will tend His flock (40:11), a sovereign ruler sitting above the earth, stretching out the heavens like a curtain and reducing rulers to nothing (40:22-24).  He is our protector when we pass through the waters and flaming fires of life (43:1-3a), and the only God as there is no other (45:20-22).  He is our comfort (51:12), our suffering Savior scourged, pierced and crushed for our iniquities (52:14; 53:3-12).  He is our healer but also the one who proclaims judgment or God’s vengeance (61:1-2).  He is the King of kings (66:1-2, 23).

Isaiah 59:1-2 says this great God can save anyone and hear any prayer but our sins separate us from God so He does not hear.  Therefore, we all need salvation.   What comfort to know it is available in that Savior Isaiah promised, Jesus Christ!

 
Bible study questions

 
1.     In Isaiah 2:12-22, what happens on the day of the Lord of hosts reckoning?

2.     In chapter 6, how does Isaiah see God?

3.     What separates us from God (see v59:1-2)? 

4.     How does Isaiah respond for Israel (see v59:9-15)?

5.     Who does God send for those who repent (see v59:20)?
 
 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Study of the Song of Solomon by Pat Harley


Song of Solomon

I have to admit I am a sucker for romance. Romance is not just flowers and candy. Romance can be those intimate acts of love that we do for one another that simply shout, “I love you”. On our second date November 17, 1963, Chuck Harley brought me a stuffed moose from a popular cartoon at that time.  I loved it and named it Moots and kept that moose all through high school and into college and marriage. Then in 1972, I baby sat a very young child who had just lost a parent. She loved the moose and wanted to take it home so the moose left the house and I never saw it again.

Last Christmas, 42 years later, I received a moose for Christmas from my Beloved. It was an exact replica of the Moots I had lost so long ago. It wasn’t candy or flowers, it was something better and it was one of the most romantic gifts I have ever received. He had hunted down something that was no longer sold or made and paid a high dollar for it, all for my great pleasure and surprise. It loudly and clearly said “I love you”.

Song of Solomon is God’s great approval on romantic love. It burst through the stoic, solemn, wrinkled brow, frowny view of romance and sexual love in marriage and openly and joyfully applauds it. It is impossible to read that little book, mostly poetry, without learning a few valuable lessons.

First of all it celebrates purity until marriage. In our sex soaked culture this is not even considered possible but God assures us it is and it is worth waiting for.

Secondly, the couple openly expresses beautiful words of love to one another.  There is no holding back, and they use words of beauty and yes even fun. There is no shame or embarrassment…just pure freedom to express the love that is in their hearts.

Third, they fight (I am so glad God put that in the story) but the person who has offended makes haste to heal the relationship and forgiveness is quickly given.

And lastly, they put a high priority on their marriage. So many things can take precedent over the marriage relationship but here God encourages us to take the time to refresh and regroup and restore the passion and intimacy.

The word moose does not appear in the Song of Solomon, but the principle does. Go the second mile, do the work, spend the money, say the words, make your spouse’s happiness a priority, without embarrassment holding nothing back.  And when you do you may even hear an applause right from heaven.


After reading the Song of Solomon, answer the following questions.

1.      Chapters 1 and 2 describe the young couple’s courtship?

2.      In Chapter 3 how did the groom retrieve his bride?

3.      Chapter 4 describes the honeymoon. What makes it special?

4.      Chapter 5 describes a lover’s quarrel. Why did they fight? Did it last long?

5.      How does the couple keep love kindled in chapter 6 and 7?

6.      How can we kindle the romance with our own beloved?

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Amazing Collection 15-Minute Bible Study

Ecclesiastes

by Eleanor Lewis 



A little boy was told Solomon was the wisest man to ever live.  He replied, “But he married 700 wives and 300 porcupines, that doesn’t seem very wise to me.”  He has a point! 

The first commandment God gave was, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Before there was a king in Israel, God warned future kings not to multiply wives for their hearts would turn away from Him to serve other gods. (Deut 17:17)  King Solomon started well asking God for wisdom. When young, he wrote the Song of Solomon giving wisdom for marriage.  In his mid-years he wrote the Proverbs which give wisdom for living a Godly life in an unGodly world.  However, disobeying God, he married many foreign women and, as God predicted, his heart turned after their gods.   (I Kings 11) 

In these later years when he had turned from God’s wisdom, King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes.   Trusting his own mind or human wisdom he tried all the world offers... wine, women, works and wealth.   The result?  He hated life including all he thought would make him happy.  Trusting his own thinking (what seemed right) he found life to be meaningless, empty, like striving after wind.  He was seeking satisfaction, but never finding it.

Looking at all his labor had provided he realized riches can be lost through a bad investment or you will die and leave it all.   Therefore,  “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money...”  

Solomon says:  “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”  (Eccles 12:13-14)

1.  Ecclesiastes is a book of man’s wisdom not God’s.  What have you thought would bring satisfaction that has left you feeling empty?

2.  Solomon disobeyed God by marrying foreign women.  What did he learn the hard way?  See Eccles 7:25-26.

3.  We too can get caught up or trapped by success and the things of this world.  What does Solomon say about those who fear or don’t fear (reverence) God above all? See Eccles 8:12-13.   

4.  What is God saying to you so your life will not feel meaningless, like you are striving after wind?

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

God is Real

I was reading Facebook a few weeks ago, and one of the questions on the “feed”  was “How can a parent  help a child become a Christian?”  It is a good question and one that should keep parents awake at night.  The answers were many and for the most part good ones .They  included family devotions, a commitment to a Bible teaching church, home schooling, Christian schools, youth groups and Christian camps. But there is one thing that I think far out weights any of the suggestions. In fact I think it is key and it is simple: Let them see that Christ is real.

The day a child finds out that Santa is not real nor is the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy can be a little startling. These are all stories, made to make life a little more fun. I confess I have yet to meet anyone who was truly traumatized by finding out that Mom and Dad were really the culprits. As a child I was not so interested in WHO delivered those gifts, eggs or money as I was that they WERE delivered. That was all that mattered.

But with God there is a huge difference. He IS real.  We do well to read the Bible stories to our kids. After all they are some of the very best stories in the world!  It is wonderful to have times set apart for the family to come together and pray and discuss what God has to say in the Bible. And an excellent church is a huge blessing. But they cannot show the child on a regular basis that God truly is real and involved in our lives and family. If the child is able to see that God is working and real then he will not be easily persuaded by smooth talking professors or confident friends or Hollywood.  He will KNOW because he has seen the “handiwork of God” and does not doubt His existence.   

When a child sees the parent put God before ANYTHING, he will take note. When a child hears parents talking about the work God has done or the prayer that was answered, they take notice. If church is looked upon as a joyous opportunity to worship a mighty and holy and loving God, then he will take note. When the parents refer to the Scriptures, and are committed to know and study and obey God’s Word  as their source of knowledge, understanding and wisdom,  then the child will take note.

When my daughters were young, a neighbor called me to pray for a friend that was horrifically injured in an accident and didn't expect to live. I spent that afternoon praying fervently for this lady I had never met. That evening we got the call that she had come through the surgery “miraculously” and was going to make it.  We praised God as we saw that God is real and chose to answer our prayers.
 Few years later our car was dying. We had committed to paying cash for everything except our house. It seemed like it would be impossibility, but we prayed and when our car died several months later, there was enough money in the bank to pay cash for a newer model.

But sometimes the answer is no. When our company began to flounder we prayed fervently that God would intercept and save it, but He did not and we lost everything.  But in the midst of sorrow and confusion we knew God had a plan and indeed He did. We tried to walk in faith and God responded with another job and several great blessings we would not have seen had we not first lost everything. In fact we saw God more “real” than ever before and we are grateful for the experience.  So our whole  family was able to see answered prayers, His provision and also  learn that invaluable lesson that  “no” can sometimes be a “yes” to something better. These are just a few small examples that made an impact.

Give children as much Bible knowledge as you can pump into them in the short years that they live at home. Have family devotions. Make sure you attend a Bible teaching church and a have a close group of like-minded friends. But above all, show your children that our God is not a legend, but knows us intimately, loves us dearly and is working for our great good. . 


We as parents cannot “save” our children; that is entirely the work of God. But we can show them that Christ is real as He works in our families and that His Word is true. That is an excellent step toward guiding them on the path to heaven. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Study of Proverbs by Linda Sweeney


 
As a child I received many “proverbs” from my grandmother.  She had some of the greatest sayings, which didn’t mean a lot to me at the time…sort of wasted on my youth, but as I matured, I realized what a wise woman she was.  The “sayings” she shared with me took on new meaning WHEN I applied them.  I often smile when I remember some of the things she taught me.  One memory I think of often with great fondness is when I was telling her some sad story about a situation I didn’t like or one where I had been hurt, was scared or wondered how I would ever “live through it!”  I had so many dramas in my life, especially as a teenager, that I don’t remember the exact “tragedy” I was relaying, but I do remember her saying “If all of our troubles were hung on a line (clothes line for laundry), you’d take yours and I’d take mine.”  That was her way of telling me that everyone has troubles and that there’s always someone with a harder situation than mine.  I’ve come to realize that this is definitely true!
As an adult, I’ve learned to read God’s Proverbs knowing that there is great wisdom there.  This is wisdom for a life of skillful living!  The book of Proverbs in the Bible was mostly composed by the wisest man to ever live, King Solomon.  God gave him great wisdom because he asked for it instead of all the other choices he could have made.  People came from great distances to hear his wisdom.  Most scholars believe these were written during his middle age years.  This book is really God’s “How to” advice for His children so that we will live a better life and be blessed.  Some of the writings are pretty funny and some show us the comparison between the wise person and the fool by the choices they make.
I would like to challenge you to read one chapter in Proverbs each day for 31 days (there are exactly 31 chapters in this book) and at the end of each chapter jot down one principle of wisdom that God has shown you.  Keeping these in a journal would be a great way to record what God wants you to know.  Be sure you ask The Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and show you what the spiritual meaning is.  It’s easy sometimes to interpret a proverb we hear with worldly wisdom.  For instance, “If the shoe fits, wear it” does not mean I can buy all the shoes I try on that fit!  Sometimes I wish it did!   Why not start by asking God to help you interpret His Proverbs for your particular situation and show you how you can be wise in the role where God has placed you:  Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and/or co-worker.  Here’s a great one to start with if you are desiring to be an amazing woman:  Proverbs 3:5-6 says:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”   Wisdom, or skill for living, comes from God and begins with the fear and knowledge of Him (see Proverbs 9:10).
There are many components of wisdom described in the book of Proverbs, many of which are outlined in the first chapter. Describe all of the aspect of wisdom in each of the following verses:
Proverbs 1:2:
Proverbs 1:3:
Proverbs 1:4:
Proverbs 1:5:
Proverbs 1:6:
Proverbs 1:7:
 

 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Writing By Hand


The basket sits on the floor in my bedroom.  Every time I have received a note of encouragement or appreciation or a letter from a friend or family member, anything that has meaning, I throw it in the basket to read again someday. But the basket is now overflowing so “someday” came Sunday. Some of the letters were from friends who have long since left earth and moved to heaven. Some were from people I have never met. Some were from friends I have lost contact with and others from friends still near and dear. They were all treasures. All were hand written and I could identify many of them as soon as I picked them up because of the unique cursive.
I have to admit, I am not the crying sort. But last Sunday afternoon, every note took me back into the presence of the author. Even those written by strangers had such powerful significance. A stranger sending encouragement is an exceptional treasure as they don’t have to write out of any obligation. They just do it out of a loving and sometimes grateful heart. I couldn’t help the tears that often cascaded down my cheeks.
 I began to realize this type of communication will soon be obsolete.  And there will not be many hand- written notes with distinctive cursive to cheer the heart and warm the spirit and remind us that we are loved and appreciated. The word “delete” will take care of that. And with it will go a lot more than just words of encouragement.  In some respects, history will be lost.  These notes often recalled to my mind events that had taken place that I had long forgotten. A lengthy letter from my grandfather, who passed away over thirty years ago, expressed his love for his family and added a number of stories from his life. It drew me into the chord that binds us all together with those family members who had gone on before us and loved us even when were too young and self absorbed to be able to recognize it.
I am now about one eighth of the way through the basket of cards and letters. This effort has done two things. First it has encouraged me to pick that pen back up, pull the note cards or stationary out of the desk and WRITE a note, a letter, in my hand writing to those I need to thank, to those I love and adore, to those who need encouragement. And when I write each alphabetical letter, now not nearly as refined and correct as in earlier years, I will pray that the person receiving it will save it for another decade when she or he will bring it out and be reminded that they were dearly loved and cared for and appreciated by one Pat Harley.
Secondly, it reminded me that one more generation and handwriting will be obsolete. Few children know how to write well and legibly. My grandson Colter spent last summer teaching himself how to write cursive because it is not taught in his school now that computers have become the only way to communicate.  It is a loss. And with it the easy “delete” to make room on the computer for more important things will mean that little will be saved and a part of history will be lost.
A young neighbor asked for a recipe recently and added, “Pat would you please write it out in your own handwriting? It will make the recipe more special.” I think I know what she means. Our handwriting is a part of us, each one so different, and that is what makes handwriting a treasure. No one will write the way you do. Each is unique. The hundreds of cards and letters in my white basket say there are some things worth saving…perhaps it is the hand written note.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Book of Psalms by Linda Sweeney

We all have our favorite places to go and things to read.  I’m not sure why I love Psalms so much and consider it my favorite place in the Bible except maybe because it’s such a book of honesty!  David wrote the majority of the Psalms (Israel’s hymn book), and he’s definitely one of my favorite Bible characters.  He certainly wasn’t perfect, had no problem speaking his mind to God, and it always came back to a heart issue! 

I find so much hope in this book for whatever I’m going through.  Reading it always changes my countenance!  Even when my circumstances haven’t changed after prayer, I feel better when I’ve spent some time in this book.  It really is the book in my Bible that has the most “dog eared,” underlined, color coded and tear stained pages.  Sometimes I am led to cry out to God as David did because I am in such a hard and misunderstood place.  Other times I find myself singing out loud as I read the incredible praises David penned while worshipping his God.  Occasionally I realize I am telling God about my frustrations with people or circumstances (knowing He knows what I’m thinking before I speak).  One of my most favorite addresses to visit is Psalm 3:3 which says:  “But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.”  Sometimes I need a shield and sometimes I need my head to be lifted!   Maybe you do too.

I recommend that you go to the book of Psalms when you know you need “something,” but aren’t sure where to go…I believe you’ll find what you’re looking for in every chapter!

Psalms to Ponder
The Psalms were written by several different authors during a variety of situations, each highlighting a different aspect of God’s character. Read the following Psalms and note which facet of God’s character comes to mind for you.

Psalm 1
Psalm 8
Psalm 27
Psalm 34
Psalm 42
Psalm 71
Psalm 89
Psalm 96
Psalm 111
Psalm 145