Monday, November 30, 2015

2015DBRP_335 Est7-8 Is42 2Thes3

In Esther 5 Haman planned to impale Mordecai on a pole. But on the same night that Haman planned for that murder, God caused the king to have a sleepless night and read about Mordecai. Haman came before the king at just the right time to get assigned the task of honoring Mordecai.



In Isaiah 41 we again not only heard God predict the future, but also challenge Israel’s idols to prophesy or do anything at all.



The Thessalonians must have wondered how they would hear of Jesus’ return— given that Jesus would touch down so far from them at Jerusalem. We will be able to anticipate Jesus’ return by whether the ‘man of lawlessness’ has appeared, has drawn away many people by working powerful miracles, and has usurped God’s position in the temple. Note that God has not given us the order or timing of these events in relation to what was foretold in 1st Thessalonians.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

2015DBRP_334 Est5-6 Is41b 2Thes2

In Esther 3-4 Haman cast lots (purim) to find out that March 7 was the lucky date to exterminate the Jews. Mordecai requested that Esther intercede directly to the king. And the only way to do that would endanger Esther herself, since no one was allowed to approach the king in the inner court uninvited.

Did you notice in yesterday’s reading, we heard a description of a king that sounded similar to one described in the book of Daniel?

2“Who has stirred up this king from the east,
rightly calling him to God’s service?
Who gives this man victory over many nations
and permits him to trample their kings underfoot?
With his sword, he reduces armies to dust.
With his bow, he scatters them like chaff before the wind.
3He chases them away and goes on safely,
though he is walking over unfamiliar ground.
4Who has done such mighty deeds,
summoning each new generation from the beginning of time?
It is I, the LORD, the First and the Last.
I alone am he.”
Because of the amazingly fast progress of this king being like the description of Alexander the Great (the male goat) in Daniel 8, I previously thought that Isaiah was also describing Alexander. But Alexander came from the west. Instead, this is the same king as mentioned in verse 25 of today’s reading, and scholars say that he is most likely Cyrus. In a few chapters Cyrus will be mentioned by name, and this is not the only time Isaiah alludes to him without mentioning his name.

In preparing for his topic of Christ’s return, in 2 Thes1 Paul mentioned the punishment of people who refuse to obey the Good News about Christ. They will ‘suffer’ or ‘pay the penalty of eternal destruction’. Note that if people are going to be burned up in hell, or if God’s punishment was simply that people would cease to exist, it would not be called ‘suffer eternal destruction’. This understanding is not just a doctrine. It turns out that this gives great comfort to those who are suffering persecution, and gives a great motivation to all of us for sharing the Good News.


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Saturday, November 28, 2015

2015DBRP_333 Est3-4 Is41a 2Thes1

I thank Ashlee Smith for recording the part of Esther. Ashlee has often been heard in smaller parts without introduction this year. She directs our church’s program for children and also is the secretary. I thank her also for preparing the PDF files for the podcasts while I was in Indonesia in September and October.

Yesterday we heard how Esther became the queen, and how she continued to keep her Jewish background a secret. We also heard how Mordecai, her uncle, was promoted to a palace official after uncovering a plot to assassinate king Xerxes.



The shift to such beautiful poetry that occurs in chapter 40 of Isaiah is one of the things that has made people think the last part of this book was authored by someone else. But that is the silliness of worldly-minded people. As I have pointed out as we have gone along, Isaiah has made beautiful and memorize-able verses from the beginning. And Isaiah’s amazing predictions about the Messiah are not just found in chapter 53, as we heard again yesterday.



Today we start 2nd Thessalonians. We read 1st Thessalonians starting in the last two days of August— for those few of you who are in sync with our calendar. (By the way, next year should I hook readings to a calendar, or just have Day 1, Day 2, etc.?)

2 Thes. seems to have been written soon after the first letter, around 51AD. Paul was evidently still at Corinth. And the letter seems to have been written to clarify a very important points about Christ’s second coming. This letter contains some of the clearest teaching about the antichrist, although Paul does not use that term.

Constable’s notes say, “Paul wrote to encourage the Thessalonian believers to continue to persevere in the face of continuing persecution (1:3-10). He also wanted to clarify events preceding the day of the Lord to dispel false teaching (2:1-12). Finally, he instructed the church how to deal with lazy Christians in their midst (3:6-15).” Constable’s notes can be found at



Translation notes:

3Dear brothers and sisters,c we can’t help but thank God for you, because [you so fully believe in Christ//your faith is flourishing] and your love for one another is growing.


11So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your [full belief in Christ//faith] prompts you to do.

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2015DBRP_333Looking toward 2016

Hey Everyone!

I am back from Indonesia since Wednesday the 23rd. My trip started from Jakarta in the early morning of the 23rd. I saw the nightfall of the 24th flying west from Japan, but arrived home when it was still the 23rd in Arkansas. I am happy about the results of my time in Indonesia. Our little non-profit Bible translation organization there (called Albata) is now better organized, and we have clear goals and a budget for next year. We have ambitious goals for translating the Old Testament. Lord willing, we will add 3-4 people employed part-time as Bible translators— graduates of our on-line translation course. We also now have a team of people working to make audio recordings of the Plain Indonesian New Testament. Our two full-time members now have clear goals in leadership— taking over some things that I have normally done myself.

Albata doesn’t actually have the monthly income to accomplish the ambitious goals I just mentioned! Please pray that Indonesian Christians will find out about Albata and both pray for and support our Bible translation work. Please also pray for the two full-time members mentioned above (Daniel and Balazi). Pray for Balazi that he will have the Lord’s wisdom in leading Albata’s Bible translation team, and pray for Daniel in promoting the use of our Plain Indonesian New Testament even into rural areas of Indonesia. Incidentally, Daniel and Balazi are both engaged to be married.

I have almost finished updating the Digging Deeper Daily reading plan for the YouVersion Bible app. The main change is that the little introductory texts that I read in the podcasts will now be included inside the plan’s devotional content area. This will be way more convenient for about 500 YouVersion users who visit our website daily— not to listen, but just to read the episode notes. For you who are using the YouVersion app, I hope you will see the difference in the plan before January 1st.

There are some cool features in the YouVersion Bible reading app that I have only just begun to use. If you click on a verse, you have six very useful options— including highlighting verses and writing comments. Have you tried making a verse-picture yet?— which is the third of the six options. The pictures are easy to make and provide an eye-catching way to share meaningfully with your friends on social media. The backgrounds provided within the app are quite nice, and now you can also upload background images from your own device’s picture gallery. Then you set the size, color, and location of the verse text. The results are often so artistic that your friends will re-share your creations.

Please share your YouVersion verse-pictures with the Daily Bible Reading Podcast community! I have started a new Facebook group with this address:

Please visit that link (found in the episode notes) and click the “Join group” button on the right side of the title picture! Then when you mark a verse or make a verse-picture, after you share it in your normal fashion, please also click the share button again. Choose Facebook, and post to the DBRPdiggingdeeper group. Note that the default choice on the top line will be to share “On your own timeline.” Click the little triangular button next to the words “On your own Timeline,” and pick to share “To a group.” If you have already joined our group, you will find the choice to post to the DBRP group. It’s quick and easy to share!

There are 54 people who have already completed reading the 365-day Digging Deeper Daily plan! The plan started on YouVersion just before January 1st of 2015, so those 54 have finished it long before one year has elapsed. For all you who started later or have fallen a bit behind, keep going! I praise the Lord that over 1,000 people found— and have even completed, my 7-day Buckling the Belt of Truth plan which I announced in my last news podcast! That plan tells the seven Biblical teachings that have helped me most in living the Christian life.

I have committed myself to making another new set of podcasts covering the whole Bible in 2016. I will follow the same reading plan, but this time I will read from the Good News Bible. The translation notes and the closing prayers will be different. If you only just started listening to the DBRP sometime in late 2015, you may want to jump to the 2016 podcasts at some point. I hope that the recording quality will be consistently better in next year’s podcasts. Please pray with me that our Lord, Christ Jesus, will be glorified through the podcasts next year.

If you have been blessed by God’s Word through the Daily Bible Reading Podcasts— or if you have complaints or suggestions, please join our the new group on Facebook mentioned above and write a post. How has God been transforming you through His Word? Please share with us!

Albata’s web site (in Indonesian) is

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Friday, November 27, 2015

2015DBRP_332 Est1-2 Is40b Philemon

In the final two chapters of Nehemiah, we heard of the culmination of Nehemiah’s work— the ceremony for the dedication of the wall. The people proved that the wall could stand up to more than just a fox walking on it. Then Nehemiah went back to Babylon. When he came back to Jerusalem, he needed to right several wrongs, as the people had allowed a deterioration in the temple worship.

We now turn to the book of Esther, which may have been written by Mordecai (a major character in the book), or by Ezra or Nehemiah, who would have known this story. The king Xerxes was defeated in a famous naval battle against Greece. From the historian Herodotus we find that the feast mentioned in the first chapter of Esther was the occasion for planning that battle. Esther has been compared to Joseph and David. She also started out as just an ordinary person, but God planned something great for her.

The Jews always read the book of Esther in the celebration of Purim. Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned the people boo and shake rattles or noisemakers to drown out his name.



We return to Isaiah 40. I stopped our reading yesterday at verse 17. Three memorable musical compositions in Handel’s Messiah are taken from just verses 1-11. Today I will start in verse 12.



In chapter 4 of Colossians we heard Paul encourage alertness in prayer and making the most of every opportunity to share the Good News. Our speech should be (literally translated ‘seasoned with salt’. NLT does a nice job translating that meaningfully as ‘attractive’.

Along with other people, Onesimus was mentioned at the end of Colossians. He was the slave of Philemon. We will read that letter now. I wish that we knew if Onesimus was so attracted to the Gospel after over-hearing Paul speak at Philemon’s house that he ran away to search for Paul when he was under house arrest in Rome. Or did Onesimus just run away as any ordinary slave might do and just ‘happen’ to ‘end up’ in prison with Paul in Rome? Each story would be fascinating!

One of my spiritual fathers was Dr. Glen Zumwalt, who taught aeronautical engineering at Wichita State University and was the faculty advisor for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Whenever Glen had the opportunity to do a one-off Bible study, he picked Philemon. I think I heard him lead a Bible study on this book four times. He always showed how this little book is a picture of the Gospel. Philemon is in the place of God. Paul is an advocate like Jesus. And picture yourself in the position of a runaway slave.

Translation notes:

4I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5because I keep hearing about your [fully believing//faith] in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.

6And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your [believing/faith] as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.

10I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in [believing the Good News about Jesus//the faith] while here in prison.

25May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with [each of you spiritually//all of your spirits//your spirit].


The shift to plural-you indicates that Paul is closing with a greeting to all the people mentioned at the first of the letter, not just Philemon. It is amazing to me that many English translations fail to make this clear.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

2015DBRP_331 Neh12-13 Is40a Col4


In yesterday’s chapters in Nehemiah, we heard the names of the various religious and civil leaders who signed the statement of commitment to follow Moses’ Law, which was almost certainly penned by Ezra. Then there was a listing of the various leaders and clans that volunteered or were chosen by lot to live in Jerusalem.




I always am very disappointed with Hezekiah when he does not pray and ask the Lord to not allow Jerusalem to be conquered by Babylon and not to allow his sons to become eunuchs in Babylon’s palace. God had already responded amazingly to him in answering his prayers. The New Testament teaches us to be alert in prayer, and I think that includes being alert to what to pray.

Today we start the glorious final section of Isaiah, with favorite words set to music in Handel’s Messiah.



Our resurrection to new life because of being one with Christ is not just being raised from death to this earth. We get raised right to heaven. Our real life is ‘hidden’ with Christ. The picture continues with our bodies and evil desires being pictured like clothes. We put off the old life like old clothes and put on the new life like clothes.

Yesterday’s chapter ended with instructions for wives, husbands, children, fathers, and slaves. Today’s chapter continues with the instruction to masters.




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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

2015DBRP_330 Neh10-11 Is39 Col3

The returned exiles showed how sincere they were in following the Lord! They gathered together for the express purpose of hearing the Law. By this time their language had changed so much that they needed 13 Levites to explain what was said in the readings. The people wept because they realized how far they were from obeying the Law of Moses, and also for joy in hearing it. One month later, the leaders gathered to explore the Law in more detail, and they found that Israel had always neglected celebrating the Festival of Shelters. They did that for the prescribed week. Ezra read the Law to the people every day. Then afterward, the was a meeting for confessing their sins including the long prayer in chapter 9. This seems to have been an extra event, about one week after the Festival of Shelters was over. After that prayer,

38eThe people responded, “In view of all this,f we are making a solemn promise and putting it in writing. On this sealed document are the names of our leaders and Levites and priests.”



After the prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah that he would die, in 2nd King’s 20 we are told that Isaiah only managed to get to the middle courtyard when the Lord’s message came answering Hezekiah’s prayer. 15 years were added to Hezekiah’s life, and he receive the promise that the Assyrian king would not conquer Jerusalem. In his poem of thanks, Hezekiah said:

15But what could I say?

For [God/he] himself sent this sickness.

Now I will walk humbly throughout my years

because of this anguish I have felt.



Note the distinction about old Jewish religious laws that Paul makes, comparing them with true Biblical Christianity. Those old religious regulations had no ability to help one conquer our persistent evil desires. Following the teachings in the New Testament does allow us to be freed from bondage to evil desires. This deliverance happens when we understand, believe, and meditate upon spiritual realities such as these:  (2:13-15, 20-23)

13You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15In this way, he disarmedd the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

20You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21“Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

2015DBRP_329 Neh8-9 Is38 Col2

Nehemiah 7 ends with an incomplete sentence in our translation. That chapter dealt with listing the various families and temple workers who came back after exile. And the transition to the next events as we heard yesterday starts like this:

73So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel. In October,x when the Israelites had settled in their towns,

In chapter 37 yesterday, we heard of Hezekiah’s triumph through his prayer. As we have seen before in Isaiah (and not just in Isaiah’s message to the king), this defeat was prophesied, and we heard the fulfillment yesterday.

After that wonderful poem in Colossians chapter 1— which I can barely resist reading to you a second time, Paul says these things:

21This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

Then in talking about the revelation of the Good News, he says,

26This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

Translation notes:

7Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then [you will grow strong in your beief of//your faith will grow strong in] the truth [just as/0] you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

12For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you [fully believed in/trusted] the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

2015DBRP_328 Neh7 Is37 Col1

Yesterday we heard how Nehemiah stood up for all the people in financial difficulty. The nobles were rich, and everyone else was suffering,—some even having no option but to sell their children into slavery. He convinced the nobles to forgive debts, and had them take a solemn oath about that. The wall was finished in just 52 days, but Nehemiah was getting more and more threats from Sanballat and his cronies.

We heard the challenge and mocking of the Assyrian chief of staff who brought the Assyrian King’s message to Jerusalem with a huge show of force. The challenge was shouted out in Hebrew for all the people to hear. What a thing to happen to a king that 2Kings 18 praises with these words:

1Hezekiah son of Ahaz began to rule over Judah in the third year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel. 2He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah,athe daughter of Zechariah. 3He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. 4He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.b

5Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. 6He remained faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses.

We finished the wonderful book of Philippians yesterday. I count three wonderful promises in that 4th chapter. But note: This time I feel that all of them are really conditional promises— even the last one. If we are going to have God’s peace with us, guarding our hearts and minds, and if we want God to supply our needs, then we must give attention to how Paul told the Philippians to live and what they were doing in support of Paul’s mission.

I encourage everyone to spend more time looking at the treasures of Philippians, and the same goes for the book we start today— Colossians.

Colossians was written around the same time as Philippians, and Philemon was a member of this church. This letter has another wonderful poetic portion in chapter one exalting Christ. In all of my recent presentations in Indonesian seminaries, I have introduced our translation by reading Colossians 2 and the first part of chapter 3. The things Indonesians don’t understand in their Bibles— and the things I hope you will understand in the NLT, are spiritual realities. The things that are true of us spiritually which cannot be seen with physical eyes. If we understand those things, we get the opportunity to believe them. If we believe them, we can meditate on them. If we meditate on them, we find them working powerfully in our lives to transform us and release us from our persistent sinful cravings.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015DBRP_327 Neh5-6 Is36 Php4

Yesterday Nehemiah gave a listing of the people who rebuilt the wall. This included Shallum and his daughters, and two named goldsmiths, merchants, and priests. The residents of the land opposed to the construction were threatening violence, so the people armed themselves and had men on guard at all times. Nehemiah and his men stayed fully armed at all times, even when they ‘went for water’— which I take as a euphemism for going potty.

It was interesting to find this verse among many beautiful portions in chapter 35:

3With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,

and encourage those who have weak knees.

This verse was probably in the mind of the writer of Hebrews in chapter 13. And in fact, the Holy Highway and its destination is very much like the ‘place’ we ‘come to’ in Hebrews 13!

Today we start on the prose portion of Isaiah from chapters 36-39.

I have found deep meaning and great spiritual help from the portion around verse 13 in chapter 3. And I am certainly not alone in that. This would be one of the most quoted verses in this letter:

13No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved [perfection//it],d but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

15Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things...

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015DBRP_326 Neh3-4 Is35 Php3

After Nehemiah’s wonderful prayer for Jerusalem, more than three months went by before the king noticed him looking sad. He says he had never before looked sad, so he must have waited. God must have been in the timing, because the king wonderfully agreed to help Nehemiah in every way. And the leaders in Jerusalem also were enthusiastic in their acceptance of his proposal to rebuild the walls.

Yesterday we heard that the land of Edom would become an eternal waste land and a home for owls and other creatures. I take it that the locations would be in modern-day Jordan, and GoogleMaps shows almost nothing green in that whole area.

Yesterday we heard Paul’s wonderful poem of praise about Christ’s humility and subsequent exaltation to the highest place. And we heard this promise:

13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Translation notes:

1Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters,a rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your [fully believing//faith].

13No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved [perfection//it],d but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

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