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 »

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

A Little Footstool

Reading: Isaiah 66:1-2

What kind of picture do these verses put in your head? Do you have a footstool? What do you use it for?

Sometimes in this busy world it is hard to remember that God is ruling over us. There are so many things that make us forget. We have our worries, our chores, and our responsibilities, and sometimes it feels like God is very far away.

We have to remember that God is all-present and all-powerful. He made all things, and therefore He can control all things. Even in a world of sin and sadness, He says that He will be with us.

God is so powerful that one day He will destroy this earth, His footstool, just as easily as you can break up a little footstool yourself. Can you imagine having that much power over this earth? That alone should make us tremble at His Word (verse 2).

However, for the man who is humble and contrite in spirit, God’s power is an awesome and comforting thing. The person who is humble, contrite, and fearful knows that the all-powerful God is on His side. God is looking at him and wants to take care of him. Is that what God wants to do for you?

The next time you need a chair or footstool to reach something, remember that it serves you, just like we should serve God, and obey Him in all things. For He rules over us with wisdom and lovingkindness, wanting all men to obey His Word.

For Further Study:

  • Today’s reading talked about being humble. What does it mean to be humble? Do you know any humble people? Read these other promises that God makes to the humble: Proverbs 22:4; Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 18:4. Did you notice that last verse? Children are an example to Christians of being humble! How special you are in the sight of God!
  • I’m afraid that sometimes we become too “used” to God. Sometimes people tend to make Christ their “pal,” instead of giving Him the proper honor that He deserves. This reading today reminds us that the Father and Son are worthy of our fear and awe. Read Psalm 135:20; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Jeremiah 2:19; 1 Peter 2:17.
  • How can you be more humble? What makes it hard to be humble? What can you pray to God about being more humble?
Posted in Earth, Heaven, Humility/Pride, King/Judge, Skies, Worship. Comments Off on A Little Footstool

Our Hearts of Clay

Reading: Isaiah 29:13-16

One of the most interesting toys in our home is an electric child’s pottery wheel that was given to us by a relative. It’s been great fun learning how to make things on it. However, pottery is not something that is undertaken easily. Have you ever looked at a piece of pottery? Perhaps in your home there is a cookie jar, clay jug, or some other shaped vessel. Even a plate is an amazing thing if you think about it ~ to think that a perfect circle could be formed so smoothly and evenly! I didn’t appreciate this until I attempted to make one of my own.

Pottery clay is a tricky thing. Ours came in a plastic bag and we had to cut off chunks of it that could be easily managed. Then it had to be kneaded and warmed by our hands so that it would be pliable enough to work with. We had to squeeze the air bubbles out of it and, sometimes, drip water onto it to make it the right consistency ~ not too wet and not too dry. The children were impatient. When could they use the pottery wheel? “Not yet, for if you tried to make something of this clay before it’s ready, it would not form properly. There would be air bubbles in your piece which would make it less strong.”

Finally, we could put our lump of clay on the wheel and start it spinning. The clay felt so nice and cold in our hands. But oh, what was happening ~ the wheel spun too quickly, we’ve pressed too much on this side, and now our piece is turning into a cone. Stop the wheel… mash the clay… start over. This happened many times.

We were able to make two lumpy little bowls that day. One is painted beautifully and sits on my kitchen counter, holding marbles and bracelets and game pieces, or whatever else I pick up from the kitchen floor for my children to put away. The other little bowl was dried and painted, but then promptly broke when we set it on the counter. We don’t know why. How sad to lose something for which we had worked so hard!

It’s no wonder that God compares our hearts to clay. Do they conform freely to His will? Do they struggle within His hands, wishing to follow their own tradition? Do they sin and show others by their behavior, “He did not make me”? Do they act like pretty little pieces but then shatter at the first sign of stress?

Now that I think about it, we haven’t used our pottery wheel since that first time. My children say it is too difficult. Perhaps in a few years they will have bigger hands ~ and more patience!

For Further Study:

  • Read Jeremiah 18:1-12. How did God show the Israelites that He was “the potter”? How did His “clay” behave?

 

  • Verses 13 and 14 from today’s reading are repeated in Matthew 15:8-9. Jesus used those verses to show that the Pharisees were hypocrites. They told others to follow God, but they did not follow God themselves Read the verses preceding these. What tradition were the Pharisees doing? What law of God were they breaking?

 

  • What have you done lately to show that you are “good clay” in your Father’s hands? What have you done that may have declared to others, “He did not make me”? What can you pray about these things?
Posted in Earth, Heart, Humility/Pride, Inspiration of the Word, Worship. Comments Off on Our Hearts of Clay

Righteousness and Justice

Reading: Proverbs 21:2-8

 

You know that worshipping God is very important to us.  And yet, God says there is something even more important than worship, and that is righteousness and justice (verse 3).  How can this be so? 

 

God cannot accept our sacrifices, our worship, if we are going to continue in unrighteousness.  Sin is serious to God.  Worship doesn’t automatically “wipe away” the bad things we’ve done – only feeling sorry and trying to change can do that.  Verse 4-8 of this chapter show us some of the sins that are serious to God.  Pride, impatience, lying, violence… keep reading in this chapter and you can find others! 

 

The following story was written by Thornton W. Burgess and published in the book Mother West Wind “How” Stories in 1919.  Now out of print, the book may be read free online.

 

HOW MR. WEASEL WAS MADE AN OUTCAST

 

 

Chatterer the Red Squirrel peered down from the edge of an old nest built long ago in a big hemlock-tree in the Green Forest, and if you could have looked into Chatterer’s eyes, you would have seen there a great fear. He looked this way; he looked that way. Little by little, the fear left him, and when at last he saw Peter Rabbit coming his way, he gave a little sigh of relief and ran down the tree. Peter saw him and headed straight toward him to pass the time of day.

 

“Peter,” whispered Chatterer, as soon as Peter was near enough to hear, “have you seen Shadow the Weasel?”

 

It was Peter’s turn to look frightened, and he hastily glanced this way and that way. “No,” he replied. “Is he anywhere about here?”

 

“I saw him pass about five minutes ago, but he seemed to be in a hurry, and I guess he has gone now,” returned Chatterer, still whispering.

 

“I hope so! My goodness, I hope so!” exclaimed Peter, still looking this way and that way uneasily.

 

“I hate him!” declared Chatterer fiercely.

 

“So do I,” replied Peter. “I guess everybody does. It must be dreadful to be hated by everybody. I don’t believe he has got a single friend in the wide, wide world, not even among his own relatives. I wonder why it is he never tries to make any friends.”

 

“Here comes Jimmy Skunk. Let’s ask him. He ought to know, for he is Shadow’s cousin,” said Chatterer.

 

Jimmy came ambling up in his usual lazy way, for you know he never hurries. It seemed to Chatterer and Peter that he was slower than usual. But he got there at last.

 

“Why is it, Jimmy Skunk, that your cousin, Shadow the Weasel, never tries to make any friends?” cried Chatterer, as soon as Jimmy was near enough.

 

“I’ve never asked him, but I suppose it’s because he doesn’t want them,” replied Jimmy.

 

“But why?” asked Peter.

 

“I guess it’s because he is an outcast,” replied Jimmy.

 

“What is an outcast,” demanded Peter.

 

“Why, somebody with whom nobody else will have anything to do…” replied Jimmy. “I thought everybody knew that.”

 

“But how did it happen that he became an outcast in the first place?” persisted Peter.

 

“He’s always been an outcast, ever since he was born, and I suppose he is used to it,” declared Jimmy. “His father was an outcast, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfathers way back to the days when the world was young.”

 

“Tell us about it. Do tell us about it!” begged Peter.

 

Jimmy smiled good-naturedly. “Well, seeing that I haven’t anything else to do just now, I will. Perhaps you fellows may learn something from the story,” said he. Then he settled himself comfortably with his back to an old stump and began.

 

“When old King Bear ruled in the forest long, long ago, and the great-great-ever-so-great-grandfathers of all of us and of everybody else lived in peace and happiness with each other, slim, trim, spry Mr. Weasel lived with the rest. He was small, just as Shadow is now, and he looked just the same as Shadow does now. He was on the best of terms with all his neighbors, and no one had a word to say against him. In fact, he was rather liked and had quite as many friends as anybody. But all the time he had a mean disposition. He hid it from his neighbors, but he had it just the same. Now mean dispositions are easily hidden when everything is pleasant and there are no worries, and that is the way it was then. No one suspected any one else of meanness, for with plenty to eat and nothing to worry about, there was no cause for meanness.

 

“With his mean disposition, Mr. Weasel was also very crafty. Being small and moving so swiftly, he was hard to keep track of. You know how it is with Shadow–now you see him, and now you don’t.”

 

Chatterer and Peter nodded. They knew that it is because of this that he is called Shadow.

 

“Well,” continued Jimmy, “it didn’t take him long to find that if he were careful, he could go where he pleased, and no one would be the wiser. They say that he used to practise dodging out of sight when he saw any one coming, and after a while he got so that he could disappear right under the very noses of his neighbors. Being so slim, he could go where any of his four-footed neighbors could, and it wasn’t long before he knew all about every hole and nook and corner anywhere around. There were no secrets that he didn’t find out, and all the time no one suspected him.

 

“Of course hard times came to Mr. Weasel at last, just as to everybody else, but they didn’t worry him much. You see, he knew all about the secret hiding-places in which some of his neighbors had stored away food, so when he was hungry, all he had to do was to help himself. So Mr. Weasel became a thief, and still no one suspected him. Now one bad habit almost always leads to another. Mr. Weasel developed a great fondness for eggs. Our whole family has always had rather a weakness that way.”

 

Jimmy grinned, for he knew that Peter and Chatterer knew that he himself never could pass a fresh egg when he found it.

 

“One day he found a nest in which were four little baby birds instead of the eggs he had been expecting to find there and, having a mean disposition, he flew into a rage and killed those four little birds. Yes, Sir, that’s what he did. He found the taste of young birds very much to his liking, and he began to hunt for more. Then he discovered a nest of young mice, and he found these quite as good as young birds. Then came a great fear upon the littlest people, but not once did they suspect Mr. Weasel. He was very crafty and went and came among them just as always. They suspected only the larger and stronger people of the forest who, because food was getting very scarce, had begun to hunt the smaller people.

 

“But you know wrongdoing is bound to be found out sooner or later. One day Mr. Rabbit surprised Mr. Weasel making a meal of young mice, and of course he hurried to tell all his neighbors. Then Mr. Weasel knew that it was no longer of use to pretend that he was what he was not, and he boldly joined the bigger animals in hunting the smaller ones. It makes most people angry to be caught in wrongdoing and it was just that way with Mr. Weasel. He flew into a great rage and vowed that he would kill Mr. Rabbit, and when he couldn’t catch Mr. Rabbit, he hunted others of his neighbors until there was no one, not even fierce Mr. Wolf or Mr. Panther or Mr. Lynx, of whom the littlest people were in such fear. You see, they could hide from the big hunters, but they couldn’t hide from Mr. Weasel because he knew all their hiding-places, and he was so slim and small that wherever they could go, he could go.

 

“Now the big people, like Mr. Wolf and Mr. Panther, killed only for food that they might live, and when they found Mr. Weasel killing more than he could eat, they would have nothing to do with him and even threatened to kill him if they caught him. So pretty soon Mr. Weasel found that he hadn’t a friend in the world. This made him more savage than ever, and he hunted and killed just for the pleasure of it. He took pleasure in the fear which he read in the eyes of his neighbors when they saw him.

 

“Old Mother Nature was terribly shocked when she discovered what was going on, but she found that she could do nothing with Mr. Weasel. He wasn’t sorry for what he had done and he wouldn’t promise to do better. ‘Very well,’ said Old Mother Nature, ‘from this time on you and your children and your children’s children forever and ever shall be outcasts among the people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows, hated by all, little and big.’ And it has been so to this day. Even I am not on speaking terms with Shadow, although he is my own cousin,” concluded Jimmy Skunk.

 

Peter Rabbit shuddered. “Isn’t it dreadful not to have a single friend?” he exclaimed. “I would rather have to run for my life twenty times a day than to be hated and feared and without a single friend. I wouldn’t be an outcast for all the world.”

 

“There’s not the least bit of danger of that for you, Peter,” laughed Jimmy Skunk.

 

 

For Further Study: 

  • In 1 Samuel 15, Saul kept the animals of the Amelakites so that he could sacrifice them to God.  But God had wanted Saul to destroy everything in Amalek.  So even though Saul tried to worship God, he had in fact disobeyed God.  In John 4, Jesus has a discussion with a Samaritan woman about worship.  In verses 23-24, what does Jesus say is important in worship?  God wants us to worship Him with the right attitude/heart, and also in obedience to His Word.  You can’t have one without the other, or that wouldn’t be true worship.  See also Ecclesiastes 5:1.

 

  • How can you make your worship to God more meaningful and important in your life?  How can you be less distracted and more involved in the worship service?  What things can you practice thinking about and doing so that you’ll be more prepared for worship?
Posted in Beasts & Birds, Holiness/purity, Kindness, Love, Worship. Comments Off on Righteousness and Justice

A Royal Priesthood

Reading: Leviticus 10:1-11

Parents: “Candle Children” was written by Bruce S. Wright and published in his book, The Children’s Six Minutes. The book was published in 1922 and is now out of print, but it is available free online.

Introduction: Today’s reading teaches us several things about what God expected from His priests. Why were Nadab and Abihu punished? What were the special things that God commanded of Moses?

There is something about a candle we all love. We have our clear gas lights and our still more brilliant electric bulbs, but when the birthday comes we want a cake with candles on it….

First of all [a] candle speaks of Symmetry. How perfectly formed is this candle! It is smooth, there are no rough places that stand out…. Your life should have symmetry. God asks you to give heed to your physical, your mental and your spiritual duties that your life may be well rounded, a life of beautiful symmetry.

Second, [a] candle stands for Fragrance…. There are some children we do not like to have around, they are surly, sulky and mean. There are others we dearly love to have with us at all times. They have what I call fragrance. They have the fragrance of thoughtfulness, the sweetness of unselfishness…

[Finally], the candle stands for Light. It is useless until the wick is lighted. It burns for others. Your life is a light. Jesus wants all Christians to think of themselves as lights in the world. “Let your light shine.” Be a lighted candle for the Lord.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,
that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him
who has called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light….
2 Peter 2:9

For Further Study:

  • Aaron’s sons were priests in the Old Testament. Christians are priests in the New Testament. Many things in the Old Testament was really just a “shadow” or pattern for what He was really going to do in the New Testament. Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:16-17. We can read about more shadows and what they were meant to teach us:
    Temple ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19
    Sabbath rest ~ Hebrews 4:9-11
    Incense ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14-16; Revelation 5:8
    Sacrifice ~ Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 12:1
    Flood & ark ~ 1 Peter 3:20-21
  • List the names of other religions/denominations that you have learned about. What do they practice that would seem “strange” to God? Do you know the Scripture that tells you why these things are strange, or is it just because it’s not what you are used to practicing? It’s OK if you don’t know; you’re still learning and growing. But, pray to God to help you keep learning His Word so that you can learn what would be acceptable to Him.
Posted in Church, Holiness/purity, Humility/Pride, Inspiration of the Word, King/Judge, Priesthood, Worship. Comments Off on A Royal Priesthood

God is with His People

Reading: 2 Chronicles 7:11-18

“I am very glad that today is the Lord’s day,” said Lily, “for I will see Julie today at church.”

Lily’s mother considered this while smoothing the little girl’s hair with a brush. Then after the last ringlet was subdued, Mother asked, “Well Lily, what if Julie were not at church today? Would you be glad to be going to church?”

“Well, of course I would be glad to be there with you, Mama,” said Lily with a smile, “but you know Julie is my cousin and my special friend besides.”

Mother hugged her, and then asked, “When you are at worship, singing songs and praying, do you think anyone notices you, Lily?”

Lily thought about this a moment. “I believe God must hear me. But I don’t know…. there are so many people at the worship, Mama. My voice is not very strong.”

Her mother smiled. “Well, Lily, God said that His eyes, ears, and heart are with His people. He comes to His people when they worship, and He notices each and every one of them. When Solomon built the great big temple for God, God said He would live there. But today, God calls the church His temple. He lives with His church just as surely and happily as you live in this house of ours.”

Lily looked around at her bedroom, at her drawings on the walls, her dolls lined up on the bed, and the sunshine slanting in through her window and making a pattern on the floor. “Mama, I do love this house. I love my bedroom.”

“Yes, child, you love it because it belongs to you and it contains all things you love. That’s how God feels about His people, the church.”

For we are the temple of the living God;
Just as God said,
“I will dwell in them and walk in among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
2 Corinthians 6:16

For Further Study:

  • Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. God calls each of us His temple. Our bodies belong to Him. It is wrong for us to say “It’s my life” or “it’s my body, I can do whatever I want.” Although God gave us lots of freedom, He also gives us commandments, wisdom, and plain common sense to know what is good for ourselves. Remember that we belong to Him ~ we should be showing Him to others, and we should bring glory to Him. After all, that is what will save the precious souls of this world. What we want, what’s “in style,” and what others do are constantly changing. But God’s commandments about good behavior, modest appearance, and serving others have never changed. We will spend time in other lessons looking at those specific commandments; for now, just keep in mind these thoughts from Corinthians:
    1 Corinthians 6:12-13 ~ Not everything that “looks good” or “tastes good” is helpful for us. Thinking about what makes me feel good or look good is not spiritual thinking; it is fleshly thinking. We do not want our flesh to be our master.
    Verses 13-17 ~ We have to think about the choices we make because we do not belong to this world. We want to belong to God. The person who has been baptized into Christ has joined Christ and should try to have the same mind as Christ’s
    Verse 18 ~ We have to protect our body, because decisions about our body can affect our soul.
    Verses 19-20 ~ We are precious to God
Posted in Church, Loves children, Worship. Comments Off on God is with His People

Worship & Praise to God

Reading: Psalm 95:1-6

“Daddy, look at the man in this picture!” Louis said. He pointed to a page in his Bible picture book. “He has chains on his hands and feet. I think he’s going to be put in jail!”

Louis’s father leaned over the kitchen table and looked at the book. “No, son,” he said, “this man is an Israelite. The enemies of the Israelites have taken over their land. This man and his family will be taken to a new land called Babylon. The Israelites will have to live there for a long time.”

“That’s too bad,” said Louis. “Will he ever go back?”

“Well, eventually the Israelites did go back,” said his Daddy. “And they were very happy to go back. Do you know that one of the first things they did when they went back was to rebuild their temple?”

“Why, Daddy?” asked Louis.

“They wanted to worship God. When they were in Babylon, they missed their temple building. They missed being with God’s people, singing their favorite songs and listening to the Scripture being read in their language. It’s very hard to be far away from home and not be able to do the things that make you feel close to God. Would you like to be told that you couldn’t see your church family ever again?”

“No, I wouldn’t like it,” said Louis with a frown. “I would miss all my friends at church.”

“Yes. And you know how quiet the church building gets when everyone leaves and we turn off the lights and lock the doors? Imagine if the building stood empty like that for years and years, and nobody could go in that whole time. How sad it would be if we couldn’t be together to worship! We couldn’t praise God, pray to God, or study together.”

“I wouldn’t like it,” said Louis, who enjoyed his Bible classes very much.

“I wouldn’t either,” said Daddy. “That’s why the psalms tell us to worship God. We need worship so that we can remember how great, and good, and powerful God is. He’s our Creator and Savior. He made this world – all the mountains and the seas – and He’s done so many wonderful things for us. We should worship Him whenever we can!”

For Further Study:

  • Can you have a worshipful attitude towards God every day? Read Romans 12:1-2 and answer these questions:
    How can our bodies (actions) show God that we worship Him only?
    What kind of attitude should we have about the world?
    How do we change our attitude about the world?
    How is the will of God described?
    We can live in such a way that brings glory, praise, and honor to God. That is how we worship God in our daily life. This is different from the assemblies that we attend with our church family. This is a worshipful attitude which shows others that we belong to Him!
  • What are the things you do to glorify God? How many different ways – with words and actions – can you say, “I love you” to God?
Posted in Church, Earth, Worship. Comments Off on Worship & Praise to God