Read the Bible in a Year

Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year. This is part of The Colossians 13:16 Project, sponsored by Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia. You're invited to worship with us Sundays, at 11:00 a.m. or Saturdays, at 6:30 p.m. You may also want to consider joining one our adult Bible Studies: Thursdays at 12:00 noon and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. We also have a full range of programs for children. If you want more information about the church, check out the other blogs. And please feel free to leave any comments.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bible Readings for July 31, 2014

Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 29:1-36; Romans 14:1-23; Psalm 24:1-10; and Proverbs 20:12. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you missed a day, you can find all the readings at our blog, The Bible in a Year.

2 Chronicles 29:1-36 (The Message)

2 Chronicles 29

King Hezekiah
 1-2 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old and was king in Jerusalem for twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. In God's opinion he was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David.  3-9 In the first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah, having first repaired the doors of The Temple of God, threw them open to the public. He assembled the priests and Levites in the court on the east side and said, "Levites, listen! Consecrate yourselves and consecrate The Temple of God—give this much-defiled place a good housecleaning. Our ancestors went wrong and lived badly before God—they discarded him, turned away from this house where we meet with God, and walked off. They boarded up the doors, turned out the lights, and canceled all the acts of worship of the God of Israel in the holy Temple. And because of that, God's anger flared up and he turned those people into a public exhibit of disaster, a moral history lesson—look and read! This is why our ancestors were killed, and this is why our wives and sons and daughters were taken prisoner and made slaves.
 10-11 "I have decided to make a covenant with the God of Israel and turn history around so that God will no longer be angry with us. Children, don't drag your feet in this! God has chosen you to take your place before him to serve in conducting and leading worship—this is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well."
 12-17 The Levites stood at attention: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah from the Kohathites; Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel from the Merarites; Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah from the Gershonites; Shimri and Jeiel sons of Elizaphan; Zechariah and Mattaniah sons of Asaph; Jehiel and Shimei of the family of Heman; Shemaiah and Uzziel of the family of Jeduthun. They presented themselves and their brothers, consecrated themselves, and set to work cleaning up The Temple of God as the king had directed—as God directed! The priests started from the inside and worked out; they emptied the place of the accumulation of defiling junk—pagan rubbish that had no business in that holy place—and the Levites hauled it off to the Kidron Valley. They began the Temple cleaning on the first day of the first month and by the eighth day they had worked their way out to the porch—eight days it took them to clean and consecrate The Temple itself, and in eight more days they had finished with the entire Temple complex.
 18-19 Then they reported to Hezekiah the king, "We have cleaned up the entire Temple of God, including the Altar of Whole-Burnt-Offering and the Table of the Bread of the Presence with their furnishings. We have also cleaned up and consecrated all the vessels which King Ahaz had gotten rid of during his misrule. Take a look; we have repaired them. They're all there in front of the Altar of God."
 20-24 Then Hezekiah the king went to work: He got all the leaders of the city together and marched to The Temple of God. They brought with them seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven he-goats to sacrifice as an Absolution-Offering for the royal family, for the Sanctuary, and for Judah as a whole; he directed the Aaronite priests to sacrifice them on the Altar of God. The priests butchered the bulls and then took the blood and sprinkled it on the Altar, and then the same with the rams and lambs. Finally they brought the goats up; the king and congregation laid their hands upon them. The priests butchered them and made an Absolution-Offering with their blood at the Altar to atone for the sin of all Israel—the king had ordered that the Whole-Burnt-Offering and the Absolution-Offering be for all Israel.
 25-26 The king ordered the Levites to take their places in The Temple of God with their musical instruments—cymbals, harps, zithers—following the original instructions of David, Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet; this was God's command conveyed by his prophets. The Levites formed the orchestra of David, while the priests took up the trumpets.
 27-30 Then Hezekiah gave the signal to begin: The Whole-Burnt-Offering was offered on the Altar; at the same time the sacred choir began singing, backed up by the trumpets and the David orchestra while the entire congregation worshiped. The singers sang and the trumpeters played all during the sacrifice of the Whole-Burnt-Offering. When the offering of the sacrifice was completed, the king and everyone there knelt to the ground and worshiped. Then Hezekiah the king and the leaders told the Levites to finish things off with anthems of praise to God using lyrics by David and Asaph the seer. They sang their praises with joy and reverence, kneeling in worship.
 31-35 Hezekiah then made this response: "The dedication is complete—you're consecrated to God. Now you're ready: Come forward and bring your sacrifices and Thank-Offerings to The Temple of God."
    And come they did. Everyone in the congregation brought sacrifices and Thank-Offerings and some, overflowing with generosity, even brought Whole-Burnt-Offerings, a generosity expressed in seventy bulls, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs—all for Whole-Burnt-Offerings for God! The total number of animals consecrated for sacrifice that day amounted to six hundred bulls and three thousand sheep. They ran out of priests qualified to slaughter all the Whole-Burnt-Offerings so their brother Levites stepped in and helped out while other priests consecrated themselves for the work. It turned out that the Levites had been more responsible in making sure they were properly consecrated than the priests had been. Besides the overflow of Whole-Burnt-Offerings there were also choice pieces for the Peace-Offerings and lavish libations that went with the Whole-Burnt-Offerings. The worship in The Temple of God was on a firm footing again!
 36 Hezekiah and the congregation celebrated: God had established a firm foundation for the lives of the people—and so quickly!

Romans 14:1-23 (The Message)

Romans 14

Cultivating Good Relationships
 1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.  2-4For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
 5Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
 6-9What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
 10-12So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we're all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren't going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

   "As I live and breathe," God says,
      "every knee will bow before me;
   Every tongue will tell the honest truth
      that I and only I am God."
So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

 13-14Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I'm convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
 15-16If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don't you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!
 17-18God's kingdom isn't a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness' sake. It's what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.
 19-21So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault. You're certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God's work among you, are you? I said it before and I'll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don't eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
 22-23Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.

Psalm 24:1-10 (The Message)

Psalm 24

A David Psalm
 1-2 God claims Earth and everything in it, God claims World and all who live on it.
   He built it on Ocean foundations,
      laid it out on River girders.

 3-4 Who can climb Mount God?
      Who can scale the holy north-face?
   Only the clean-handed,
      only the pure-hearted;
   Men who won't cheat,
      women who won't seduce.

 5-6 God is at their side;
      with God's help they make it.
   This, Jacob, is what happens
      to God-seekers, God-questers.

 7 Wake up, you sleepyhead city!
   Wake up, you sleepyhead people!
      King-Glory is ready to enter.

 8 Who is this King-Glory?
      God, armed
      and battle-ready.

 9 Wake up, you sleepyhead city!
   Wake up, you sleepyhead people!
      King-Glory is ready to enter.

 10 Who is this King-Glory?
      he is King-Glory.


Proverbs 20:12 (The Message)

Drinking from the Chalice of Knowledge
 12 Ears that hear and eyes that see—
   we get our basic equipment from God!

Verse of the Day
Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God. They were not God's children by nature or because of any human desires. God himself was the one who made them his children.” - John 1:12-13
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Thought for the Day

British novelist best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, J. K. Rowling wrote, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, August 3, 2014...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, August 3, 2014...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 17:1-7, 15), Old Testament (Genesis 32:22-31), the Letters (Roman 9:1-5), ...

Bible Readings for July 30, 2014

Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 26:1–28:27; Romans 13:1-14; Psalm 23:1-6; and Proverbs 20:11. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you missed a day, you can find all the readings at our blog, The Bible in a Year.

2 Chronicles 26-28:27 (The Message)

2 Chronicles 26

King Uzziah
1-2 The people of Judah then took Uzziah, who was only sixteen years old, and made him king in place of his father Amaziah. The first thing he did after his father was dead and buried was to recover Elath for Judah and rebuild it. 3-5 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king and reigned for fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother was Jecoliah from Jerusalem. He behaved well in the eyes of God, following in the footsteps of his father Amaziah. He was a loyal seeker of God. He was well trained by his pastor and teacher Zechariah to live in reverent obedience before God, and for as long as Zechariah lived, Uzziah lived a godly life. And God prospered him.
6-8 He ventured out and fought the Philistines, breaking into the fortress cities of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod. He also built settlements around Ashdod and other Philistine areas. God helped him in his wars with the Philistines, the Arabs in Gur Baal, and the Meunites. The Ammonites also paid tribute. Uzziah became famous, his reputation extending all the way to Egypt. He became quite powerful.
9-10 Uzziah constructed defense towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, the Valley Gate, and at the corner of the wall. He also built towers and dug cisterns out in the country. He had herds of cattle down in the foothills and out on the plains, had farmers and vinedressers at work in the hills and fields—he loved growing things.
11-15 On the military side, Uzziah had a well-prepared army ready to fight. They were organized by companies under the direction of Jeiel the secretary, Maaseiah the field captain, and Hananiah of the general staff. The roster of family leaders over the fighting men accounted for 2,600. Under them were reinforcement troops numbering 307,000, with 500 of them on constant alert—a strong royal defense against any attack. Uzziah had them well-armed with shields, spears, helmets, armor, bows, and slingshots. He also installed the latest in military technology on the towers and corners of Jerusalem for shooting arrows and hurling stones. He became well known for all this—a famous king. Everything seemed to go his way.
16-18 But then the strength and success went to his head. Arrogant and proud, he fell. One day, contemptuous of God, he walked into The Temple of God like he owned it and took over, burning incense on the Incense Altar. The priest Azariah, backed up by eighty brave priests of God, tried to prevent him. They confronted Uzziah: "You must not, you cannot do this, Uzziah—only the Aaronite priests, especially consecrated for the work, are permitted to burn incense. Get out of God's Temple; you are unfaithful and a disgrace!"
19-21 But Uzziah, censer in hand, was already in the middle of doing it and angrily rebuffed the priests. He lost his temper; angry words were exchanged—and then, even as they quarreled, a skin disease appeared on his forehead. As soon as they saw it, the chief priest Azariah and the other priests got him out of there as fast as they could. He hurried out—he knew that God then and there had given him the disease. Uzziah had his skin disease for the rest of his life and had to live in quarantine; he was not permitted to set foot in The Temple of God. His son Jotham, who managed the royal palace, took over the government of the country.
22-23 The rest of the history of Uzziah, from start to finish, was written by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. When Uzziah died, they buried him with his ancestors in a field next to the royal cemetery. His skin disease disqualified him from burial in the royal cemetery. His son Jotham became the next king.

2 Chronicles 27

King Jotham
1-2 Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king; he reigned sixteen years at Jerusalem. His mother was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. In God's eyes he lived a good life, following the path marked out by his father Uzziah. Unlike his father, though, he didn't desecrate The Temple of God. But the people pushed right on in their lives of corruption. 3-6 Jotham constructed the Upper Gate of The Temple of God, considerably extended the Wall of the Ophel, and built cities in the high country of Judah and forts and towers down in the forests. He fought and beat the king of the Ammonites—that year the Ammonites turned over three and a quarter tons of silver and about 65,000 bushels of wheat, and another 65,000 bushels of barley. They repeated this for the next two years. Jotham's strength was rooted in his steady and determined life of obedience to God.
7-9 The rest of the history of Jotham, including his wars and achievements, are all written in the Royal Annals of the Kings of Israel and Judah. He was twenty-five years old when he became king; he reigned for sixteen years at Jerusalem. Jotham died and was buried in the City of David. His son Ahaz became the next king.

2 Chronicles 28

King Ahaz
1-4 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. He didn't live right in the eyes of God; he wasn't at all like his ancestor David. Instead he followed in the track of Israel in the north, even casting metal figurines for worshiping the pagan Baal gods. He participated in the outlawed burning of incense in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and—incredibly!—indulged in the outrageous practice of "passing his sons through the fire," a truly abominable thing he picked up from the pagans God had earlier thrown out of the country. He also joined in the activities of the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines that flourished all over the place. 5-8 God, fed up, handed him over to the king of Aram, who beat him badly and took many prisoners to Damascus. God also let the king of Israel loose on him and that resulted in a terrible slaughter: Pekah son of Remaliah killed 120,000 in one day, all of them first-class soldiers, and all because they had deserted God, the God of their ancestors. Furthermore, Zicri, an Ephraimite hero, killed the king's son Maaseiah, Azrikam the palace steward, and Elkanah, second in command to the king. And that wasn't the end of it—the Israelites captured 200,000 men, women, and children, besides huge cartloads of plunder that they took to Samaria.
9-11 God's prophet Oded was in the neighborhood. He met the army when it entered Samaria and said, "Stop right where you are and listen! God, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and used you to punish them; but you took things into your own hands and used your anger, uncalled for and irrational, to turn your brothers and sisters from Judah and Jerusalem into slaves. Don't you see that this is a terrible sin against your God? Careful now; do exactly what I say—return these captives, every last one of them. If you don't, you'll find out how real anger, God's anger, works."
12-13 Some of their Ephraimite leaders—Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai—stood up against the returning army and said, "Don't bring the captives here! We've already sinned against God; and now you are about to compound our sin and guilt. We're guilty enough as it is, enough to set off an explosion of divine anger."
14-15 So the soldiers turned over both the captives and the plunder to the leaders and the people. Personally designated men gathered the captives together, dressed the ones who were naked using clothing from the stores of plunder, put shoes on their feet, gave them all a square meal, provided first aid to the injured, put the weak ones on donkeys, and then escorted them to Jericho, the City of Palms, restoring them to their families. Then they went back to Samaria.
16-21 At about that time King Ahaz sent to the king of Assyria asking for personal help. The Edomites had come back and given Judah a bad beating, taking off a bunch of captives. Adding insult to injury the Philistines raided the cities in the foothills to the west and the southern desert and captured Beth Shemesh, Aijalon, and Gederoth, along with Soco, Timnah, and Gimzo, with their surrounding villages, and moved in, making themselves at home. Arrogant King Ahaz, acting as if he could do without God's help, had unleashed an epidemic of depravity. Judah, brought to its knees by God, was now reduced to begging for a handout. But the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, wouldn't help—he came instead and humiliated Ahaz even more by attacking and bullying him. Desperate, Ahaz ransacked The Temple of God, the royal palace, and every other place he could think of, scraping together everything he could, and gave it to the king of Assyria—and got nothing in return, not a bit of help.
22-25 But King Ahaz didn't learn his lesson—at the very time that everyone was turning against him, he continued to be against God! He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus. He had just been defeated by Damascus; he thought, "If I worship the gods who helped Damascus, those gods just might help me, too." But things only went from bad to worse: first Ahaz in ruins and then the country. He cleaned out The Temple of God of everything useful and valuable, boarded up the doors of The Temple, and then went out and set up pagan shrines for his own use all over Jerusalem. And not only in Jerusalem, but all over Judah—neighborhood shrines for worshiping any and every god on sale. And was God ever angry!
26-27 The rest of Ahaz's infamous life, all that he did from start to finish, is written in the Royal Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel. When Ahaz died, they buried him in Jerusalem, but he was not honored with a burial in the cemetery of the kings. His son Hezekiah was the next king.

Romans 13:1-14 (The Message)

Romans 13

To Be a Responsible Citizen
1-3Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. 3-5Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you'll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That's why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live.
6-7That's also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.
8-10Don't run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don't sleep with another person's spouse, don't take someone's life, don't take what isn't yours, don't always be wanting what you don't have, and any other "don't" you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can't go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
11-14But make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Psalm 23:1-6 (The Message)

Psalm 23

A David Psalm
1-3 God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

4 Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I'm not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd's crook
makes me feel secure.

5 You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

6 Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I'm back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

Proverbs 20:11 (The Message)

11 Young people eventually reveal by their actions
if their motives are on the up and up.

Verse of the Day

“You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14,16
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Source: Tumblr
Thought for the Day

American business magnate, philanthropist, investor, computer programmer, and inventor, Bill Gates wrote, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bible Readings for July 29, 2014

Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 24:1–25:28; Romans 12:1-21; Psalm 22:19-31; and Proverbs 20:8-10. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you missed a day, you can find all the readings at our blog, The Bible in a Year.

2 Chronicles 24-25:28 (The Message)

2 Chronicles 24

King Joash
1 Joash was seven years old when he became king; he was king for forty years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Gazelle (Zibiah). She was from Beersheba. 2-3 Taught and trained by Jehoiada the priest, Joash did what pleased God throughout Jehoiada's lifetime. Jehoiada picked out two wives for him; he had a family of both sons and daughters.
4-6 The time came when Joash determined to renovate The Temple of God. He got the priests and Levites together and said, "Circulate through the towns of Judah every year and collect money from the people to repair The Temple of your God. You are in charge of carrying this out." But the Levites dragged their feet and didn't do anything.
7 Then the king called in Jehoiada the chief priest and said, "Why haven't you made the Levites bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax Moses, servant of God and the congregation, set for the upkeep of the place of worship? You can see how bad things are—wicked Queen Athaliah and her sons let The Temple of God go to ruin and took all its sacred artifacts for use in Baal worship."
8-9 Following the king's orders, they made a chest and placed it at the entrance to The Temple of God. Then they sent out a tax notice throughout Judah and Jerusalem: "Pay the tax that Moses the servant of God set when Israel was in the wilderness."
10 The people and their leaders were glad to do it and cheerfully brought their money until the chest was full.
11-14 Whenever the Levites brought the chest in for a royal audit and found it to be full, the king's secretary and the official of the chief priest would empty the chest and put it back in its place. Day after day they did this and collected a lot of money. The king and Jehoiada gave the money to the managers of The Temple project; they in turn paid the masons and carpenters for the repair work on The Temple of God. The construction workers kept at their jobs steadily until the restoration was complete—the house of God as good as new! When they had finished the work, they returned the surplus money to the king and Jehoiada, who used the money for making sacred vessels for Temple worship, vessels for the daily worship, for the Whole-Burnt-Offerings, bowls, and other gold and silver liturgical artifacts.
14-16 Whole-Burnt-Offerings were made regularly in The Temple of God throughout Jehoiada's lifetime. He died at a ripe old age—130 years old! They buried him in the royal cemetery because he had such a distinguished life of service to Israel and God and God's Temple.
17-19 But after the death of Jehoiada things fell apart. The leaders of Judah made a formal presentation to the king and he went along with them. Things went from bad to worse; they deserted The Temple of God and took up with the cult of sex goddesses. An angry cloud hovered over Judah and Jerusalem because of this sin. God sent prophets to straighten them out, warning of judgment. But nobody paid attention.
20 Then the Spirit of God moved Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest to speak up: "God's word: Why have you deliberately walked away from God's commandments? You can't live this way! If you walk out on God, he'll walk out on you."
21-22 But they worked out a plot against Zechariah, and with the complicity of the king—he actually gave the order!—they murdered him, pelting him with rocks, right in the court of The Temple of God. That's the thanks King Joash showed the loyal Jehoiada, the priest who had made him king. He murdered Jehoiada's son. Zechariah's last words were, "Look, God! Make them pay for this!"
23-24 A year or so later Aramean troops attacked Joash. They invaded Judah and Jerusalem, massacred the leaders, and shipped all their plunder back to the king in Damascus. The Aramean army was quite small, but God used them to wipe out Joash's large army—their punishment for deserting God, the God of their ancestors. Arameans implemented God's judgment against Joash.
25-27 They left Joash badly wounded and his own servants finished him off—it was a palace conspiracy, avenging the murder of the son of Jehoiada the priest. They killed him in his bed. Afterward they buried him in the City of David, but he was not honored with a grave in the royal cemetery. The temple conspirators were Zabad, whose mother was Shimeath from Ammon, and Jehozabad, whose mother was Shimrith from Moab. The story of his sons, the many sermons preached to Joash, and the account of his repairs on The Temple of God can be found contained in the commentary on the royal history.
Amaziah, Joash's son, was the next king.

2 Chronicles 25

King Amaziah
1-4 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king and reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother was Jehoaddin from Jerusalem. He lived well before God, doing the right thing for the most part. But he wasn't wholeheartedly devoted to God. When he had the affairs of the kingdom well in hand, he executed the palace guard who had assassinated his father the king. But he didn't kill the sons of the assassins—he was mindful of what God commanded in The Revelation of Moses, that parents shouldn't be executed for their childrens' sins, nor children for their parents'. We each pay personally for our sins. 5-6 Amaziah organized Judah and sorted out Judah and Benjamin by families and by military units. Men twenty years and older had to register—they ended up with 300,000 judged capable of military service. In addition he hired 100,000 soldiers from Israel in the north at a cost of about four and a half tons of silver.
7-8 A holy man showed up and said, "No, O King—don't let those northern Israelite soldiers into your army; God is not on their side, nor with any of the Ephraimites. Instead, you go by yourself and be strong. God and God only has the power to help or hurt your cause."
9 But Amaziah said to the holy man, "But what about all this money— these tons of silver I have already paid out to hire these men?"
"God's help is worth far more to you than that," said the holy man.
10 So Amaziah fired the soldiers he had hired from the north and sent them home. They were very angry at losing their jobs and went home seething.
11-12 But Amaziah was optimistic. He led his troops into the Valley of Salt and killed ten thousand men of Seir. They took another ten thousand as prisoners, led them to the top of the Rock, and pushed them off a cliff. They all died in the fall, smashed on the rocks.
13 But the troops Amaziah had dismissed from his army, angry over their lost opportunity for plunder, rampaged through the towns of Judah all the way from Samaria to Beth Horon, killing three thousand people and taking much plunder.
14-15 On his return from the destruction of the Edomites, Amaziah brought back the gods of the men of Seir and installed them as his own gods, worshiping them and burning incense to them. That ignited God's anger; a fiery blast of God's wrath put into words by a God-sent prophet: "What is this? Why on earth would you pray to inferior gods who couldn't so much as help their own people from you—gods weaker than Amaziah?"
16 Amaziah interrupted him, "Did I ask for your opinion? Shut up or get thrown out!"
The prophet quit speaking, but not before he got in one last word: "I have it on good authority: God has made up his mind to throw you out because of what you've done, and because you wouldn't listen to me."

17 One day Amaziah sent envoys to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, challenging him to a fight: "Come and meet with me, I dare you. Let's have it out face-to-face!"

18-19 Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah, "One day a thistle in Lebanon sent word to a cedar in Lebanon, 'Give your daughter to my son in marriage.' But then a wild animal of Lebanon passed by and stepped on the thistle, crushing it. Just because you've defeated Edom in battle, you now think you're a big shot. Go ahead and be proud, but stay home. Why press your luck? Why bring defeat on yourself and Judah?"
20-22 Amaziah wouldn't take no for an answer—God had already decided to let Jehoash defeat him because he had defected to the gods of Edom. So Jehoash king of Israel came on ahead and confronted Amaziah king of Judah. They met at Beth Shemesh, a town of Judah. Judah was thoroughly beaten by Israel—all the soldiers straggled home in defeat.
23-24 Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. But Jehoash didn't stop at that; he went on to attack Jerusalem. He demolished the Wall of Jerusalem all the way from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate—a stretch of about six hundred feet. He looted the gold, silver, and furnishings—anything he found that was worth taking—from both the palace and The Temple of God—and, for good measure, he took hostages. Then he returned to Samaria.
25-26 Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah continued as king fifteen years after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel. The rest of the life and times of Amaziah from start to finish is written in the Royal Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
27-28 During those last days, after Amaziah had defected from God, they cooked up a plot against Amaziah in Jerusalem, and he had to flee to Lachish. But they tracked him down in Lachish and killed him there. They brought him back on horseback and buried him in Jerusalem with his ancestors in the City of David.

Romans 12:1-21 (The Message)

Romans 12

Place Your Life Before God
1-2 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 3I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.
6-8If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.
17-19Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."
20-21Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Psalm 22:19-31 (The Message)

19-21 You, God—don't put off my rescue!
Hurry and help me!
Don't let them cut my throat;
don't let those mongrels devour me.
If you don't show up soon,
I'm done for—gored by the bulls,
meat for the lions.

22-24 Here's the story I'll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.

25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I'll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God's table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
"Live it up, from head to toe.
Don't ever quit!"

27-28 From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.

29 All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together

30-31 Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.

Proverbs 20:8-10 (The Message)

8-9 Leaders who know their business and care
keep a sharp eye out for the shoddy and cheap,
For who among us can be trusted
to be always diligent and honest?

10 Switching price tags and padding the expense account
are two things God hates.

Verse of the Day

“I won't ever forget your teachings, because you give me new life by following them.” - Psalm 119:93
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Thought for the Day

American author, H. Jackson Brown, Jr. wrote, “Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bible Readings for July 28, 2014

Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 21:1–23:21; Romans 11:13-36; Psalm 22:1-18; and Proverbs 20:7. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you missed a day, you can find all the readings at our blog, The Bible in a Year.

2 Chronicles 21-23:21 (The Message)

2 Chronicles 21

 1Jehoshaphat died and was buried in the family cemetery in the City of David. Jehoram his son was the next king.
King Jehoram
2-4 Jehoram's brothers were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael, and Shephatiah—the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Their father had lavished them with gifts—silver, gold, and other valuables, plus the fortress cities in Judah. But Jehoram was his firstborn son and he gave him the kingdom of Judah. But when Jehoram had taken over his father's kingdom and had secured his position, he killed all his brothers along with some of the government officials.  5-7 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king and ruled in Jerusalem for eight years. He imitated Israel's kings and married into the Ahab dynasty. God considered him an evil man. But despite that, because of his covenant with David, God was not yet ready to destroy the descendants of David; he had, after all, promised to keep a light burning for David and his sons.
 8-9 During Jehoram's reign, Edom revolted from Judah's rule and set up their own king. Jehoram responded by setting out with his officers and chariots. Edom surrounded him, but in the middle of the night he and his charioteers broke through the lines and hit Edom hard.
 10-11 Edom continues in revolt against Judah right up to the present. Even little Libnah revolted at that time. The evidence accumulated: Since Jehoram had abandoned God, the God of his ancestors, God was abandoning him. He even went so far as to build pagan sacred shrines in the mountains of Judah. He brazenly led Jerusalem away from God, seducing the whole country.
 12-15 One day he got a letter from Elijah the prophet. It read, "From God, the God of your ancestor David—a message: Because you have not kept to the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and Asa your grandfather, kings of Judah, but have taken up with the ways of the kings of Israel in the north, leading Judah and Jerusalem away from God, going step by step down the apostate path of Ahab and his crew—why, you even killed your own brothers, all of them better men than you!—God is going to afflict your people, your wives, your sons, and everything you have with a terrible plague. And you are going to come down with a terrible disease of the colon, painful and humiliating."
 16-20 The trouble started with an invasion. God incited the Philistines and the Arabs who lived near the Ethiopians to attack Jehoram. They came to the borders of Judah, forced their way in, and plundered the place—robbing the royal palace of everything in it including his wives and sons. One son, his youngest, Ahaziah, was left behind. The terrible and fatal disease in his colon followed. After about two years he was totally incontinent and died writhing in pain. His people didn't honor him by lighting a great bonfire, as was customary with his ancestors. He was thirty-two years old when he became king and reigned for eight years in Jerusalem. There were no tears shed when he died—it was good riddance!—and they buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery.

2 Chronicles 22

King Ahaziah
 1-6 The people of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, Jehoram's youngest son, king. Raiders from the desert, who had come with the Arabs against the settlement, had killed all the older sons. That's how Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah became king. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, but reigned only one year in Jerusalem. His mother was Athaliah, granddaughter of Omri. He lived and ruled just like the Ahab family had done, his mother training him in evil ways. God also considered him evil, related by both marriage and sin to the Ahab clan. After the death of his father, he attended the sin school of Ahab, and graduated with a degree in doom. He did what they taught him, went with Joram son of Ahab king of Israel in the war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. Joram, wounded by the Arameans, retreated to Jezreel to recover from the wounds he received in Ramah in his war with Hazael king of Aram. Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah paid a visit to Joram son of Ahab on his sickbed at Jezreel.  7-9 The fate of Ahaziah when he went to visit was God's judgment on him. When Ahaziah arrived at Jezreel, he and Joram met with Jehu son of Nimshi, whom God had already authorized to destroy the dynasty of Ahab. Jehu, already at work, executing doom on the dynasty of Ahab, came upon the captains of Judah and Ahaziah's nephews, part of the Ahaziah delegation, and killed them outright. Then he sent out a search party looking for Ahaziah himself. They found him hiding out in Samaria and hauled him back to Jehu. And Jehu killed him.
    They didn't, though, just leave his body there. Out of respect for his grandfather Jehoshaphat, famous as a sincere seeker after God, they gave him a decent burial. But there was no one left in Ahaziah's family capable of ruling the kingdom.
Queen Athaliah
10-12 When Ahaziah's mother Athaliah saw that her son was dead, she took over. She began by massacring the entire royal family. Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah's son Joash, and kidnapped him from among the king's sons slated for slaughter. She hid him and his nurse in a private room away from Athaliah. So Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and Ahaziah's sister—she was also the wife of Jehoiada the priest—saved Joash from the murderous Queen Athaliah. He was there with her, hidden away for six years in The Temple of God. Athaliah, oblivious to his existence, ruled the country.

2 Chronicles 23

 1-3 In the seventh year the priest Jehoiada decided to make his move and worked out a strategy with certain influential officers in the army. He picked Azariah son of Jeroham, Ishmael son of Jehohanan, Azariah son of Obed, Maaseiah son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat son of Zicri as his associates. They dispersed throughout Judah and called in the Levites from all the towns in Judah along with the heads of families. They met in Jerusalem. The gathering met in The Temple of God. They made a covenant there in The Temple.  3-7 The priest Jehoiada showed them the young prince and addressed them: "Here he is—the son of the king. He is going to rule just as God promised regarding the sons of David. Now this is what you must do: A third of you priests and Levites who come on duty on the Sabbath are to be posted as security guards at the gates; another third will guard the palace; and the other third will guard the foundation gate. All the people will gather in the courtyards of The Temple of God. No one may enter The Temple of God except the priests and designated Levites—they are permitted in because they've been consecrated, but all the people must do the work assigned them. The Levites are to form a ring around the young king, weapons at the ready. Kill anyone who tries to break through your ranks. Your job is to stay with the king at all times and places, coming and going."
 8-10 All the Levites and officers obeyed the orders of Jehoiada the priest. Each took charge of his men, both those who came on duty on the Sabbath and those who went off duty on the Sabbath, for Jehoiada the priest hadn't exempted any of them from duty. Then the priest armed the officers with spears and the large and small shields originally belonging to King David that were stored in The Temple of God. Well-armed, the guards took up their assigned positions for protecting the king, from one end of The Temple to the other, surrounding both Altar and Temple.
 11 Then the priest brought the prince into view, crowned him, handed him the scroll of God's covenant, and made him king. As Jehoiada and his sons anointed him they shouted, "Long live the king!"
 12-13 Athaliah, hearing all the commotion, the people running around and praising the king, came to The Temple to see what was going on. Astonished, she saw the young king standing at the entrance flanked by the captains and heralds, with everybody beside themselves with joy, trumpets blaring, the choir and orchestra leading the praise. Athaliah ripped her robes in dismay and shouted, "Treason! Treason!"
 14-15 Jehoiada the priest ordered the military officers, "Drag her outside— and kill anyone who tries to follow her!" (The priest had said, "Don't kill her inside The Temple of God.") So they dragged her out to the palace's horse corral and there they killed her.
 16 Jehoiada now made a covenant between himself and the king and the people: they were to be God's special people.
 17 The people poured into the temple of Baal and tore it down, smashing altar and images to smithereens. They killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altar.
 18-21 Jehoiada turned the care of God's Temple over to the priests and Levites, the way David had directed originally. They were to offer the Whole-Burnt-Offerings of God as set out in The Revelation of Moses, and with praise and song as directed by David. He also assigned security guards at the gates of God's Temple so that no one who was unprepared could enter. Then he got everyone together—officers, nobles, governors, and the people themselves—and escorted the king down from The Temple of God, through the Upper Gate, and placed him on the royal throne. Everybody celebrated the event. And the city was safe and undisturbed—Athaliah had been killed; no more Athaliah terror.

Romans 11:13-36 (The Message)

 13-15But I don't want to go on about them. It's you, the outsiders, that I'm concerned with now. Because my personal assignment is focused on the so-called outsiders, I make as much of this as I can when I'm among my Israelite kin, the so-called insiders, hoping they'll realize what they're missing and want to get in on what God is doing. If their falling out initiated this worldwide coming together, their recovery is going to set off something even better: mass homecoming! If the first thing the Jews did, even though it was wrong for them, turned out for your good, just think what's going to happen when they get it right!
 16-18Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there's bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree's branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren't feeding the root; the root is feeding you.
 19-20It's certainly possible to say, "Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!" Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you're on the tree is because your graft "took" when you believed, and because you're connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don't get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green.
 21-22If God didn't think twice about taking pruning shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you? He wouldn't give it a second thought. Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God—ruthless with the deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don't presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, you're out of there.
 23-24And don't get to feeling superior to those pruned branches down on the ground. If they don't persist in remaining deadwood, they could very well get grafted back in. God can do that. He can perform miracle grafts. Why, if he could graft you—branches cut from a tree out in the wild—into an orchard tree, he certainly isn't going to have any trouble grafting branches back into the tree they grew from in the first place. Just be glad you're in the tree, and hope for the best for the others.
A Complete Israel
 25-29I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what's going on and arrogantly assume that you're royalty and they're just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that's not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house. Before it's all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written,

   A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion;
      he'll clean house in Jacob.
   And this is my commitment to my people:
      removal of their sins.
From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God's enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God's overall purpose, they remain God's oldest friends. God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.
 30-32There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.
 33-36Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It's way over our heads. We'll never figure it out.

   Is there anyone around who can explain God?
   Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
   Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
      that God has to ask his advice?

   Everything comes from him;
   Everything happens through him;
   Everything ends up in him.
   Always glory! Always praise!
      Yes. Yes. Yes.

Psalm 22:1-18 (The Message)

Psalm 22

A David Psalm
 1-2 God, God! Why did you dump me
      miles from nowhere?
   Doubled up with pain, I call to God
      all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
   I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

 3-5 And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
      leaning back on the cushions of Israel's praise?
   We know you were there for our parents:
      they cried for your help and you gave it;
      they trusted and lived a good life.

 6-8 And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
      something to step on, to squash.
   Everyone pokes fun at me;
      they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
   "Let's see how God handles this one;
      since God likes him so much, let him help him!"

 9-11 And to think you were midwife at my birth,
      setting me at my mother's breasts!
   When I left the womb you cradled me;
      since the moment of birth you've been my God.
   Then you moved far away
      and trouble moved in next door.
   I need a neighbor.

 12-13 Herds of bulls come at me,
      the raging bulls stampede,
   Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
      like a herd of buffalo on the move.

 14-15 I'm a bucket kicked over and spilled,
      every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
   My heart is a blob
      of melted wax in my gut.
   I'm dry as a bone,
      my tongue black and swollen.
   They have laid me out for burial
      in the dirt.

 16-18 Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
      thugs gang up on me.
   They pin me down hand and foot,
      and lock me in a cage—a bag
   Of bones in a cage, stared at
      by every passerby.
   They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
      and then throw dice for my clothes.


Proverbs 20:7 (The Message)

 7 God-loyal people, living honest lives,
   make it much easier for their children.

Verse of the Day

“I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.” - Philippians 3:14
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Thought for the Day

American industrialist who became known as the father of modern American shipbuilding, Henry J. Kaiser wrote, “When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bible Readings for July 27, 2014

Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 19:1–20:37; Romans 10:14–11:12; Psalm 21:1-13; and Proverbs 20:4-6. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you missed a day, you can find all the readings at our blog, The Bible in a Year.

2 Chronicles 19-20:37 (The Message)

2 Chronicles 19

 1-3 But Jehoshaphat king of Judah got home safe and sound. Jehu, son of Hanani the seer, confronted King Jehoshaphat: "You have no business helping evil, cozying up to God-haters. Because you did this, God is good and angry with you. But you're not all bad—you made a clean sweep of the polluting sex-and-religion shrines; and you were single-minded in seeking God."  4 Jehoshaphat kept his residence in Jerusalem but made a regular round of visits among the people, from Beersheba in the south to Mount Ephraim in the north, urging them to return to God, the God of their ancestors.
 5-7 And he was diligent in appointing judges in the land—each of the fortress cities had its judge. He charged the judges: "This is serious work; do it carefully. You are not merely judging between men and women; these are God's judgments that you are passing on. Live in the fear of God—be most careful, for God hates dishonesty, partiality, and bribery."
 8-10 In Jerusalem Jehoshaphat also appointed Levites, priests, and family heads to decide on matters that had to do with worship and mediating local differences. He charged them: "Do your work in the fear of God; be dependable and honest in your duties. When a case comes before you involving any of your fellow citizens, whether it seems large (like murder) or small (like matters of interpretation of the law), you are responsible for warning them that they are dealing with God. Make that explicit, otherwise both you and they are going to be dealing with God's wrath. Do your work well or you'll end up being as guilty as they are.
 11 "Amariah the chief priest is in charge of all cases regarding the worship of God; Zebadiah son of Ishmael, the leader of the tribe of Judah, is in charge of all civil cases; the Levites will keep order in the courts. Be bold and diligent. And God be with you as you do your best."

2 Chronicles 20

 1-2 Some time later the Moabites and Ammonites, accompanied by Meunites, joined forces to make war on Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat received this intelligence report: "A huge force is on its way from beyond the Dead Sea to fight you. There's no time to waste—they're already at Hazazon Tamar, the oasis of En Gedi."  3-4 Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed. He went to God for help and ordered a nationwide fast. The country of Judah united in seeking God's help—they came from all the cities of Judah to pray to God.
 5-9 Then Jehoshaphat took a position before the assembled people of Judah and Jerusalem at The Temple of God in front of the new courtyard and said, "O God, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven above and ruler of all kingdoms below? You hold all power and might in your fist—no one stands a chance against you! And didn't you make the natives of this land leave as you brought your people Israel in, turning it over permanently to your people Israel, the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived here and built a holy house of worship to honor you, saying, 'When the worst happens—whether war or flood or disease or famine—and we take our place before this Temple (we know you are personally present in this place!) and pray out our pain and trouble, we know that you will listen and give victory.'
 10-12 "And now it's happened: men from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir have shown up. You didn't let Israel touch them when we got here at first—we detoured around them and didn't lay a hand on them. And now they've come to kick us out of the country you gave us. O dear God, won't you take care of them? We're helpless before this vandal horde ready to attack us. We don't know what to do; we're looking to you."
 13 Everyone in Judah was there—little children, wives, sons—all present and attentive to God.
 14-17 Then Jahaziel was moved by the Spirit of God to speak from the midst of the congregation. (Jahaziel was the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah the Levite of the Asaph clan.) He said, "Attention everyone—all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat—God's word: Don't be afraid; don't pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God's war, not yours. Tomorrow you'll go after them; see, they're already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you'll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won't have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God's saving work for you take shape. Don't be afraid, don't waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you."
 18-19 Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!
 20 They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, "Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you'll come out on top!"
 21 After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,
    Give thanks to God, His love never quits.

 22-23 As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead. The Ammonites and Moabites mistakenly attacked those from Mount Seir and massacred them. Then, further confused, they went at each other, and all ended up killed.
 24 As Judah came up over the rise, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies—not a living soul among them.
 25-26 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder they found more loot than they could carry off—equipment, clothing, valuables. It took three days to cart it away! On the fourth day they came together at the Valley of Blessing (Beracah) and blessed God (that's how it got the name, Valley of Blessing).
 27-28 Jehoshaphat then led all the men of Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem—an exuberant parade. God had given them joyful relief from their enemies! They entered Jerusalem and came to The Temple of God with all the instruments of the band playing.
 29-30 When the surrounding kingdoms got word that God had fought Israel's enemies, the fear of God descended on them. Jehoshaphat heard no more from them; as long as Jehoshaphat reigned, peace reigned.
 31-33 That about sums up Jehoshaphat's reign over Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he became king and ruled as king in Jerusalem for twenty-five years. His mother was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. He continued the kind of life characteristic of his father Asa—no detours, no dead-ends—pleasing God with his life. But he failed to get rid of the neighborhood sex-andreligion shrines—people continued to pray and worship at these idolatrous god shops.
 34 The rest of Jehoshaphat's life, from start to finish, is written in the memoirs of Jehu son of Hanani, which are included in the Royal Annals of Israel's Kings.
 35-37 Late in life Jehoshaphat formed a trading syndicate with Ahaziah king of Israel—which was very wrong of him to do. He went in as partner with him to build ocean-going ships at Ezion Geber to trade with Tarshish. Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah preached against Jehoshaphat's venture: "Because you joined forces with Ahaziah, God has shipwrecked your work." The ships were smashed and nothing ever came of the trade partnership.

Romans 10:14-11:12 (The Message)

 14-17But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why Scripture exclaims,

   A sight to take your breath away!
   Grand processions of people
      telling all the good things of God!
But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: "Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?" The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to.

 18-21But haven't there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what's going on? Plenty, I'd say.

   Preachers' voices have gone 'round the world,
   Their message to earth's seven seas.
So the big question is, Why didn't Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted,

   When you see God reach out to those
      you consider your inferiors—outsiders!—
      you'll become insanely jealous.
   When you see God reach out to people
      you think are religiously stupid,
      you'll throw temper tantrums.
Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:
   People found and welcomed me
      who never so much as looked for me.
   And I found and welcomed people
      who had never even asked about me.
Then he capped it with a damning indictment:
   Day after day after day,
      I beckoned Israel with open arms,
   And got nothing for my trouble
      but cold shoulders and icy stares.

Romans 11

The Loyal Minority
 1-2Does this mean, then, that God is so fed up with Israel that he'll have nothing more to do with them? Hardly. Remember that I, the one writing these things, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham out of the tribe of Benjamin. You can't get much more Semitic than that! So we're not talking about repudiation. God has been too long involved with Israel, has too much invested, to simply wash his hands of them.  2-6Do you remember that time Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and cried out in prayer?

   God, they murdered your prophets,
   They trashed your altars;
   I'm the only one left and now they're after me!
And do you remember God's answer?
   I still have seven thousand who haven't quit,
   Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish.

   It's the same today. There's a fiercely loyal minority still—not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They're holding on, not because of what they think they're going to get out of it, but because they're convinced of God's grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.
 7-10And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn't succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result received his stamp of legitimacy. The "self-interest Israel" became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this:

   Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways,
      God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears,
   Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors,
      and they're there to this day.
David was upset about the same thing:
   I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals,
      break a leg walking their self-serving ways.
   I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors,
      get ulcers from playing at god.

Pruning and Grafting Branches
 11-12The next question is, "Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?" And the answer is a clear-cut No. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. But the next thing you know, the Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing. Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God's kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!

Psalm 21:1-13 (The Message)

Psalm 21

A David Psalm
 1-7Your strength, God, is the king's strength. Helped, he's hollering Hosannas.
   You gave him exactly what he wanted;
      you didn't hold back.
   You filled his arms with gifts;
      you gave him a right royal welcome.
   He wanted a good life; you gave it to him,
      and then made it a long life as a bonus.
   You lifted him high and bright as a cumulus cloud,
      then dressed him in rainbow colors.
   You pile blessings on him;
      you make him glad when you smile.
   Is it any wonder the king loves God?
      that he's sticking with the Best?

 8-12 With a fistful of enemies in one hand
      and a fistful of haters in the other,
   You radiate with such brilliance
      that they cringe as before a furnace.
   Now the furnace swallows them whole,
      the fire eats them alive!
   You purge the earth of their progeny,
      you wipe the slate clean.
   All their evil schemes, the plots they cook up,
      have fizzled—every one.
   You sent them packing;
      they couldn't face you.

 13 Show your strength, God, so no one can miss it.
      We are out singing the good news!

Proverbs 20:4-6 (The Message)

 4 A farmer too lazy to plant in the spring
   has nothing to harvest in the fall.

 5 Knowing what is right is like deep water in the heart;
   a wise person draws from the well within.

 6 Lots of people claim to be loyal and loving,
   but where on earth can you find one?

Verse of the Day

“[A Large Crowd of Witnesses]Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won't let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.” - Hebrews 12:1
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.

Rita RudnerThought for the Day

American comedian, writer and actress, Rita Rudner wrote, “When I eventually met Mr. Right I had no idea that his first name was Always.”