Idols in our hearts

Reading: Exodus 32:1-6

Have you heard this story before?  Did you know that God was so angry with the Israelites for making a golden calf that Moses killed 3,000 men for worshiping that idol (Exodus 32:28)?

Most Americans can’t ever imagine bowing down to a statue the way that the Israelites did.  But people don’t realize that anything can be an idol if it comes before our love for God.  For example, when we are greedy and covetous, that is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

Do you remember that when the Israelites entered Canaan, God told them to destroy all the people and all their idols?  He did not want any of that to remain.  God knew that idol worship would make the Israelites forget their love for him.  And the same thing can happen to us if we put anything before God.

How to be Happy was written by Lydia Sigourney and published in 1833.  Now out of print, the book is in the public domain and may be read freely online.  The following is an excerpt from one of the chapters.

LOVE YOUR SAVIOR

His character, so beautifully related in the Bible, is worthy of your warmest love. You remember his obedience to his mother, his being subject to her will, even when his wisdom astonished the most learned men of the realm. May you also, my dear children, as you “grow in stature, grow in wisdom, and in favor with God and man.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bible History, Heart, Holiness/purity, Idols, Loves children, Savior, Worship. Comments Off on Idols in our hearts

Christ’s Sacrifice

Reading: Isaiah 53:4-9 (older children can read the entire chapter)

Imagine that you are a young prince in the Middle Ages. What are the many advantages that you would have? I think one of the best ones would be your own personal whipping boy. Imagine not ever getting punished for anything, but instead having someone around to stand in for you and receive your punishment! “Yes, Father, you are right, I did steal a cookie…. Mickey, hold out your hand for Father to spank.”

Now tell me, if that were happening today, who would you pick to be your whipping boy? Do you have someone in mind? Would you pick your best friend, a stranger, or an enemy? What if you were someone’s whipping boy? For whom would you be willing to do that service?

These verses in Isaiah show us the punishment that Christ received in place of men. We cannot compare Him to a mere whipping boy, because the punishment He received was far greater, and led to His death. Yet He received it willingly. How do these verses describe what happened to Him? How do they describe His willingness?

Can you imagine a prince being a peasant’s whipping boy in the Middle Ages? Yet Christ the King took the punishment for man, whom He created.

I hope that today you will think hard about the sacrifice that Christ made for men. When sin lies heavily upon our hearts, there is a wonderful hope waiting for us: the knowledge that Christ has already borne the punishment for it. These verses in Isaiah are dark and sad, but they also contain a wonderful, saving message.

For Further Study:

  • Read Isaiah 53:1-3. Christ did not have the kind of face or body that seemed “kingly.” In fact, most people who knew Him on earth were amazed at how “ordinary” in appearance He was. Read Matthew 13:54-58; John 1:45-46; and Mark 15:16-20. What do these verses tell us about the power of the gospel? What do they tell us about the faith of Christ’s followers? What do they tell us about the way we should think of appearances, family ties, and worldly accomplishments?
  • Read the account of Christ’s trial & crucifixion from one of the gospels today: Matthew 26:47-27:56; or Mark 14: 43-15:41; or Luke 22:54-23:49; or John 18:12-19:30. Note how the prophecies in Isaiah 53 were fulfilled.
  • How willingly do you (or don’t you) receive punishment? How would you feel and act towards your sibling or friend, if they willingly and silently received punishment that was intended for you?

Redemption in Christ

Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7

One sunny summer day Jonah and his Aunt Nina went out shopping together. Jonah had brought his own money so that he could buy his mother a birthday present.

“What do you want to get your Mama for her birthday?” asked Aunt Nina as they sat in traffic.

Jonah smiled. “Last month I saw a bracelet on sale at Mr. Clark’s jewelry store. Daddy helped me put it on layaway for Mama, and today I brought the money for it. Mr. Clark gave me a good discount because Daddy works with his wife.”

“That was good thinking, Jonah,” said his aunt.

“Well, we were there to get Daddy’s watch fixed, and when I saw that bracelet I knew that Mama would like it. Daddy already paid for part of it, and he said I could pay the rest when I came back.”

Aunt Nina nodded. “I’ll take you there today so you can do that. Did you bring your receipt?”

“Yes.” Jonah dug around in his pocket and found the piece of paper that his Daddy had given him. “Do I just give it to Mr. Clark?”

“Yes, with the rest of the money you owe. Tell him you’ve come to redeem your bracelet.” Aunt Nina smiled. “Do you know what that means?”

“That I’ve come to buy it?”

“It’s somewhat the same meaning. Mama’s bracelet is waiting for its new owner. It’s waiting in that little case in Mr. Clark’s store, and you’ve come to set it free. Mr. Clark is holding it for you until pay the rest of what is owed on it.

“You’ve heard of people holding prisoners for ransom? The one who pays the ransom is the redeemer. You are the bracelet’s redeemer. God calls Himself a Redeemer. Can you think of what God paid for us?”

Jonah nodded. “Christ died for the sins of man. He paid for all the bad things that men do. ”

“That’s right. Christ paid the price that man should have paid. Christ is our Redeemer. And if He was willing to do that for us, we should know that He would protect us as long as we followed Him.”

“I’ve always wondered why Christ would do that for people, even the baddest people who killed him,” said Jonah.

“Well, it was a gift. You are buying a gift today for your Mama because she’s precious to you. And God wants us to know that we’re precious to Him.”

For Further Study:

  • Redemption… atonement… salvation… these words all point to the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. Read Psalm 130. How much did Israel long for their Messiah?

 

  • Read Romans 3:21. Who needs redemption? How is redemption found? How complete is that redemption? Read Romans 6:3-7. How do we come into contact with the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ?

 

  • Read verse 7 from Isaiah 43. Did you ever consider that YOU were created for God’s glory? How are you glorifying God in your life? What else can you do to bring glory to His Name?
Posted in Hope, Joy, Repentance & Forgiveness, Savior. Comments Off on Redemption in Christ

On Eagles’ Wings

Reading: Isaiah 40:27-31

Do you know any children who are smaller than you? When I was growing up, I was always the smallest one in my class. And now that I am an adult, I am still the smallest in my class. In fact, if you ever met me in person, you would see that I am actually smaller than some children, even though I am quite older than a child. I have always been a very small person. Perhaps that is why I sympathize with little children, who are often told to hurry up, catch up, and grow up. Has anyone ever said this to you? It’s hard to do that when you’re small.

These verses from Isaiah tell us not to worry about being small and weak. You see, we have a strong and mighty God who wants to help us. He is Everlasting, and has known us from our smallest beginnings. He is the Creator, so He knows everything that might hurt us or harm us. Bigger, stronger people may stumble at the problems and trials of life, but we have One who wants to lift us up on eagles’ wings.

Unlike me, YOU will probably grow quite a bit more in your lifetime. And then do you know what? Perhaps you will shrink when you are older. My grandmother became smaller when she grew older. Her bones became frailer, and she stooped lower. I wonder if that will happen to me as well? But it doesn’t matter. I will still have the same Heavenly Father to lift my faith and help me feel strong enough to face the difficulties of life. I hope that, big or small, you will too!

For Further Study:

  • Have you ever seen an eagle? I’ve seen them at the zoo, but not in the wild. The eagle is used to describe swiftness and power in the Bible. Read Exodus 19:3-6; 2 Samuel 1:23; Job 9:25-26; and Proverbs 123:5. What things are likened to eagles in these verses? What can we learn about God’s power and goodness from them?

  • What are the things in your life that make you feel weary? Perhaps there are some responsibilities, activities, and even relationships that are tiring you. What can you pray to God about these things?
Posted in Beasts & Birds, Courage, Elderly, Hope, Loves children, Patience, Savior, Youth. Comments Off on On Eagles’ Wings

A Steadfast Heart

Reading: Isaiah 26:1-4

The following essay was written by Bruce S. Wright and published in The Children’s Six Minutes in 1922. The book is in the public domain and may be read freely on the internet.

KNIFE LESSONS

I have here a knife. It was given me by a friend, a token of his affection and esteem, when I went aboard the steamer in Manila, Philippine Islands, to return to the homeland. All these years since then the knife has been on my study desk, daily teaching me. What lessons does this knife teach?

First of all the knife tells me of Strength. The most important part of this knife is what I call the backbone. It is the main portion of the knife to which all the blades are fastened, as well as the polished pearl handle. This would be a weak and useless knife did it not have a backbone. It says to me every day “Be strong, stand up, have convictions, be steadfast.”

Lesson number two, Discipline. This knife has been subjected to many trials and tests. The steel of which these blades are made had to go through a hard, hot, trying process before they were tempered and fit to take an edge and hold it. Sometimes I rebel about certain processes of the days, then I think of my knife and learn from it the lesson of discipline….

The [last] lesson is Usefulness. Really it is quite wonderful the variety of uses to which this knife can be put. Here is a big blade, and a small blade; here is a blade with a file; folded in the back is a tiny pair of scissors. So the great test of life is its usefulness.

For Further Study:

  • Isaiah 26:1 talks about a strong city that God has prepared for His people. God has prepared a great city for His people in Heaven. You can read more about this city in Hebrews 11:13-16 (first it talks about a country, then a city) and Revelation 21.

 

  • Isaiah 26:3 talks about God keeping us in perfect peace because of our trust in Him. This is the same message found in Philippians 4:6-7. How can we find peace in God?

 

  • Think about the qualities discussed in the story of the knife today: spiritual strength, discipline, and usefulness. How are you doing in these areas? Where can you improve?
Posted in Courage, Heaven, Holiness/purity, King/Judge, Pilgrims/pioneers/immigration, Savior, Work. Comments Off on A Steadfast Heart

Surviving Difficulty

Reading: Isaiah 17:1-8

As I write this Bible lesson, it is December in West Texas. This is a deceptive month, for some days it is bitterly cold, and some days it is as sunny and warm as an April morning. We may leave the house at breakfast in coats and jackets, then abandon them in the afternoon to play in the park; yet by nightfall, it is time to light a fire in the fireplace.

This is the time that our trees are losing leaves and the garden has been put to bed. Yet, one may see a few brave flowers in the fields. Birds that are flying south for the winter stop here to sing. We see these little reminders of the warm weather, before the January frost arrives. They remind me of these verses in Isaiah.

God says that difficult times will come for His people. Sometimes these include trials and distresses, persecution and wars. But God said He would strengthen His people, and that some would survive. Those are the “gleanings” left in the field, and the “four or five branches” left on the fruitful tree. Those are the ones whose faith remain intact. Could that be you? When things are difficult, will you be that brave little flower in the field, that bird still trilling his song into the gray December sky? Pray that your faith will grow in strength and wisdom, so that you can be a certain reminder of God’s love to those around you.

For Further Study:

  • The idea of a “remnant” is that God would allow some of the faithful Israelites to survive, because Christ was coming from this people (remember the theme of the Old Testament?). See Isaiah 1:9; Jeremiah 23:3; and Ezekiel 14:22. God gave these words to be a hope to His people Israel.
  • In a sense, Christians are a remnant as well. Do you sometimes feel like you’re in the minority because you serve God? There was a young person in the Bible who might have felt the same way, but who stayed loyal to Christ and His cause. Young Timothy traveled with Paul and “stuck with him” even when others didn’t. You can read about him in Philippians 2:19-23.
  • Talk to an older person this week about his or her life in Christ. What things have helped them remain faithful? What things have shaken their faith? What advice could they give you about staying true to God?
Posted in Beasts & Birds, Bible History, Courage, Hope, Joy, Patience, Plants, Savior, Skies, Wars, Weather. Comments Off on Surviving Difficulty

Complete Forgiveness

Reading: Isaiah 1:16-20

Have you ever played in the snow? I used to live in the Northern part of the United States, and every winter the snow would come to fill our streets and yards. Overnight, the world was transformed into a crystal-white play-land. Trees, bushes, and houses looked unfamiliar underneath their blankets. Everything seemed clearer and sharper, as if I were wearing new eyeglasses. Even the air smelled different.

Our mother dressed us in bright pink snowsuits to play outside. The plows would leave tall piles of snow in the school parking lot, which made perfect “mountains” for us to climb and build tunnels and warrens for playing. The snow brought new amusements that couldn’t be done the rest of the year: sledding, skating, and snowball fights.

I no longer live where it snows every winter. The closest impression I receive is when the cotton fields are harvested and left in the fields in large, snow-white blocks to be transported to the cotton gin. Those large white “mountains” of cotton remind me of the snow. But it’s not the same as in my childhood, when every year the snow came and changed my world.

Snow can transform a landscape, can change the way we see things, and can also change the things we do. So, too, does the healing power of God’s forgiveness. After confessing our wrongs to Him and resolving to change our ways, the weight of guilt and shame is dissolved, and we can see the goodness of God around us, urging us on in our service to Him. When God says He will make us white as snow, it is because He knows what snow means to the earth it touches.

For Further Study:

  • Repentance is more than just saying you are sorry ~ it means resolving to change your life so that you will not commit the same sin again. Many people feel sorry for their sin but don’t change their circumstances and habits so that they can do better in the future. Read Luke 3:7-14. When John the Baptist told men to repent, he expected them to prove it through their new works for God. Read also Matthew 12:43-45. What happens when we don’t replace wrong behavior with right ones?

 

  • How was true repentance demonstrated in the lives of these people: Paul (Acts 9:1-31); the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-34); the Ephesians (Acts 19:11-20).

  • Is there a habit or problem that you feel sorry for and would like to change? Write it down. Write down when it is most likely to happen. Write down the things or people that influence you in this habit. What can you change about your life so that this behavior can cease? Also, what good thing can you do in place of it?
Posted in Baptism, Holiness/purity, Repentance & Forgiveness, Savior, Skies, Weather. Comments Off on Complete Forgiveness