I Corinthians 2:1-8

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v1-2). Paul reminded the Corinthians that they were not saved by a message based on ordinary human “wisdom,” which can’t lead us to God. Instead, they were saved by Paul’s testimony about Jesus, the crucified and resurrected Savior, and that message included the “demonstration of the Spirit and power” (v5).

“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom …” (v6). Reconciled to God through the work of Jesus, we can receive through God’s Word and His Spirit the real wisdom we need.

Proverbs 19

“Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse” (v1). Poverty was a terrible thing in ancient times, just like today. Still, the Scripture says that being “a fool” – one who rejects the ways of God – is much worse than poverty. Unfortunately, when we reject God’s path and choose our own (v3), sometimes we blame our “ruin” on God Himself, refusing to accept responsibility. But the proverbs urge us to respect God, and in our obedience, we will find life and contentment (v23).

“Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die” (v16). God’s straight path is the only way to find the good life we desire.

Psalm 97

“Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, LORD” (v8). The psalmist says that people are glad when God is the judge and when He is the ruler, because we can trust Him. Human leaders may judge by appearances or take bribes, show favoritism, and use their power to oppress, but our Lord is perfect; “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (v2). He always sees the truth, and He always knows what to do.

“The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice” (v1). By faith, we belong to the coming kingdom where our Lord reigns, and our lives now reflect His rule.

I Corinthians 1:18-31

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (v28). The idea of God as Savior wasn’t new for the Jews or all that radical for Gentiles, who called their leaders “saviors”. The radical part was how God saved, and whom: Jesus was low and despised and suffered on a cross to achieve victory for everyone, even pagans; this was a “stumbling block” and “foolishness” (v23). It was a plan that “no human being” would have invented (v28).

As humans, we tried (and failed) to find wisdom and goodness on our own. By faith, Jesus Christ “became to us” wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (v30).

I Corinthians 1:1-17

“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (v13). Paul used strong words to condemn the way the Corinthian believers were beginning form groups who followed favorite leaders (Paul, Apollos, Cephas/Peter, etc, v12). This hero-worship of human leaders was causing arguments (v11) and distracting from the gospel of Jesus Christ. The best preachers – who had “words of wisdom” or prophetic gifts – were not meant to attract such attention, “lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (v17).

Elevating human leaders (or styles, or cultures) separates us; instead, worshipping Jesus, we are called to be “united in the same mind and in the same judgment” (v10).

II Chronicles 36

“But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people…” (v16). Because the leaders of Judah rejected God’s warnings (through prophets like Jeremiah, v12) and persisted in idolatry, God removed His protection from them. Quickly, they fell into the hands of their enemies. Therefore, the last rulers of Judah were dependents of Egypt and Babylon (v4,10), and Jerusalem’s beautiful Temple and palaces were burned (v19).

“The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers …” (v15). God is compassionate and warns us against sin. He doesn’t want us to face the terrible consequences of our own rebellion.

II Chronicles 35

“Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built. You need not carry it on your shoulders” (v3). Sadly, since Solomon built the Temple, the yearly Passover had not been frequently celebrated. Reforming kings like Hezekiah had tried to re-institute it, but every generation struggled. When Josiah ruled, the ark of the covenant was not even inside the Holy Place; the Levites were told to place it there so that they could help with the Passover sacrifices.

“No Passover like it had been kept in Israel …” (v18). Our historical background and culture can’t save us. Like Josiah, every new generation must embrace God’s ways for themselves.

II Chronicles 34

“While he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father …” (v3). King Josiah had a mixed heritage; his father was corrupt, and his grandfather had done terrible things and then repented. Josiah’s journey to know the Lord, therefore, was a process. He recognized what was evil and uprooted it (altars to idols, v3-7), but he didn’t know what God really desired for Israel until the workmen repairing the Temple found “the book of the Law” (v15-21). Then Josiah realized how far Israel had fallen.

Seeking God, like Josiah, is the just beginning. The more we understand God’s ways, the more we are able to commit “heart and soul” (v37) to follow Him

II Chronicles 33

“And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God …” (v7). King Manasseh ignored his father Hezekiah’s righteous example, and instead he threw himself into idolatry and sorcery, even putting an idol in the Temple. Therefore, God allowed the Assyrian king to capture Manasseh and take him to Babylon, where the pain of his captivity caused him to repent (v11-12). Amazingly, God heard his prayer and restored him to Jerusalem’s throne, where this time, he honored God.

“He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty …” (v13). God is far more merciful than we can imagine. He hears the sincere prayer of repentance and is quick to forgive.

Psalm 96

“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (v3). The psalmist urges God’s people to talk and sing about His wonderful acts “from day to day” (v2), among ourselves and also among “the nations.” Rather than assume that people know about God’s character, each generation has the responsibility to share about God’s “splendor” and “glory.” Worshipping God (v9) means telling the truth about who He is (v10) and praising Him.

“Tell of his salvation from day to day” (v2). Speaking of God’s great love and mercy lifts up our own hearts, and others hear the good news.

Romans 16:17-27

“Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (v17). Paul warned the Roman church that their unity could be disrupted. They were working together, even risking their lives, but false teachers and those who loved conflict could cause divisions. These people would not appear dangerous, but “by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” (v18). Paul wanted the Roman believers to remain innocent of this kind of vicious relational destruction (v19).

“I want you to be wise as to what is good” (v19). The relationships we have with fellow believers are valuable and pleasing to God, worth protecting.

Romans 16:1-16

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe …” (v1). Paul’s greetings display his great affection and respect for his diverse co-workers in ministry. Starting with Phoebe the deaconess (servant is normally translated “deacon”) and house church patron, Paul lists men and women who have worked hard, risked their lives, taught others, been in prison with him, and are simply “beloved in the Lord” (v8). Paul’s vision of ministry and leadership is not like the military but rather like a band of devoted friends – Jew and Gentile, men and women - serving the same Master.

“Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (v6). Rather than obligation, we are called to “work hard” for our brothers and sisters with great love.

II Chronicles 32

“And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as they spoke of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men's hands” (v19). Sennacherib of Assyria knew how to frighten the citizens of Judah; he and his generals shouted insults and threatened invasion, questioning whether “the God of Jerusalem” could really save His people. The mighty Assyrians had conquered many other nations, but Hezekiah encouraged the people: “Be strong and courageous …with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (v7-8).

Hezekiah knew that the world’s methods, “the arm of flesh,” can’t save (v8). Our defense against the enemy of our souls is our Savior, who fights for us.

II Chronicles 31

“And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered” (v31). King Hezekiah’s righteous leadership had big consequences. As the people returned to fellowship with God, their revived faith caused them to reorder their lives. They got rid of their false idols (v1), and they gave tithes and offerings so that the spiritual leaders (priests and Levites) could “give themselves” to God’s work (v4).

Hezekiah’s faith translated into “good and right and faithful” service to God (v20). When our hearts are changed by God’s love and goodness, our lives cannot stay the same.

II Chronicles 30

"May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness" (v18-19). King Hezekiah’s spiritual reforms took some people by surprise; even many leaders (priests and Levites) had become accustomed to neglecting worship and so had not ritually prepared themselves (v15). They were “ashamed,” yet they seized the opportunity to get right with God, and King Hezekiah encouraged them (v22).

“And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people” (v20). God doesn’t wait until we are prepared and have our lives in order. He eagerly accepts our sincere repentance and welcomes us home.

II Chronicles 29

“In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them” (v3). Despite that his father Ahaz had been one of the wickedest kings of Judah, Hezekiah began his reign with a heart ready to serve God. He ordered the neglected Temple to be cleansed and opened and commanded the Levites to “carry out the filth” (v5). Then he led everyone in a fresh consecration to the Lord, repenting, renouncing sin, and worshiping together (v28-31).

“All who were of a willing heart brought offerings” (v31). Real repentance and fresh dedication to the Lord can’t be commanded; our “willing hearts” must desire to know God.

Psalm 95

"Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah …” (v8). The psalmist urged God’s people to worship and trust Him as the Good Shepherd (v7), rather than “hardening your hearts” and turning to idols. The generation of Israelites that had been rescued from Egypt refused to trust God, despite His miracles for them, and so they died in the wilderness and missed out on the Promised Land (v9-11). They turned away from “the Rock of our salvation” (v1).

“We are the people of His pasture” (v7). The false idols of sin will destroy our souls, but our Good Shepherd lays down his life to save us.

Romans 15:14-33

“This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you” (v22). Paul had never met the believers in Rome because he had been busy preaching in regions where the gospel hadn’t yet spread (v19-21). He hoped to visit Rome on his way to Spain (v24), and he asked the Roman church to “help” him on his journey there, as well as give to the poor in Jerusalem. Paul took it for granted that the Roman believers would be eager to share in these global endeavors.

“Strive together with me” (v30). Being in God’s family means that we aren’t just concerned about ourselves; we “strive together,” in prayer and action, with brothers and sisters around the world.

Romans 15:1-13

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (v1). The point of being strong in faith (or in resources, or in any gift) is to “build up” others (v2). When Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus have differences, believers should follow Christ’s example (v3) and “welcome one another,” with those who are stronger leading the way (v7). God’s plan from the beginning was for Jews and Gentiles to be one people (v8-11), united in Christ.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another” (v5). God’s desire is that believers from different backgrounds praise Him with “one voice” (v6).

II Chronicles 28:16-27

“In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD--this same King Ahaz” (v22). King Ahaz misunderstood the cause of his distress and failure. Not realizing that it was God’s judgment, he missed the opportunity to repent and cast himself on God’s mercy. Instead, Ahaz “sacrificed to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him … they were the ruin of him and all Israel” (v23). Ahaz then destroyed sacred Temple objects and “shut the doors of the house of the Lord” (v24).

“It did not help him” (v21). False gods like materialism, pleasure, work, or self-improvement schemes will always disappoint us. Jesus is our only real hope, salvation, and satisfaction.