Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday, May 31st

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 36-38, John 12:1-26

The first four verses of Psalm 36 talk about the sinfulness of the wicked. I found v2 especially telling...
In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.

Eventually, our own sinfulness completely blinds us to our own sinfulness.

But then we see this huge contrast. David jumps from commenting on the utter depravity of man to worshiping our amazing, incomparable God.

Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

I love those verses. The first several especially, are very well known, but all of it is just beautiful poetic words that we know don't even do justice to God's love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice. It's unfathomable!

Notice the last line - "in your light we see light". To me, this speaks once again of the need to bring everything to the Light. When we don't do that, our sinfulness begins to cloud our judgement and turns us into the depraved sinners from the beginning of the Psalm.

And I wonder if that was the difference between Martha/Mary and Judas. In his sermon, The Climax of Love and Hate, John MacArthur says...

we see the softening of the hearts of those who love them and the hardening of the hearts of those who hate Him until they have reached the extremities and we come to the climax of love and the climax of hate in this chapter.

Here in this little incident in Bethany in the first eleven verses we see it. We see love like we haven't seen before. We see love that is extravagant. We see love that is unbounded. We see love that knows no limits. We see love that's totally self-sacrificing. And at the same time that we see that, we see the hatred of those who were His enemies and it reaches its depths. It penetrates even the inner circle of the Twelve and one of His own spews out venom on Christ. So here in response to the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, love blooms and venom of hate brews its poison and the contrast is just as wide as two individuals...Mary, on the one hand, and Judas on the other hand. And that's a mystery. How you can take two people who lived with the same Christ, walk the same steps, heard the same message, experienced His same love and all of His miracles and out of that same experience have a Judas and a Mary is mystery. (emphasis mine)

Now admittedly, I didn't have time to finish reading the entire sermon, so maybe MacArthur has a better take on how this happened, but I wonder if it wasn't what we read about in Psalm 36 and the need to bring everything into the light in order to keep sin from taking that blinding hold on our lives. Sin is not something to flirt with. It's something to run from! Joseph ran from Potiphar's wife. James said to flee from the devil. They knew how dangerous sin is. How tempting and yet soul sucking the darkness can be.

Run away from the darkness.

But more than that - focus on the Light!

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 39-41, John 12:27-50

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday, May 30 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Psalm 31, Psalm 35, John 11:30-57

Happy Monday Everyone!

I'm going to focus on Psalm 35 today. Starting with Psalm 35:1-16, David talks about his enemies pursuing him. He talks about friends who repay his friendship with malicious slander and talks about an overall diffucult time. He feels as though his prayers are returned unanswered and begins to plead "O Lord, how long will you look on?"

 17 How long, Lord, will you look on?
   Rescue me from their ravages,
   my precious life from these lions.

What catches my eye - and my spirit - is that he does not plead WHY do you look on, He does not question whether or not God will rescue Him, he just asks HOW LONG, in full faith that God WILL save him.

The next thing that spoke to me with this passage was verse 18:

18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
   among the throngs I will praise you.

Can you believe it?! Afer everything David is going through and pleads with God for in verses 1-17, he GIVES THANKS. How amazing is that? Through his hard times, his pleading with God, his betrayal of friends, in the middle of all of this he stops to give thanks to God.  There is a lesson to be learned here. How do we take the focus off of self in the midst of trials? How do we hold fast to the trust that God WILL rescue us from our struggles? We find the answer at the end of Psalm 35:28.

"My tongue will speak of your righteousness
and of your praises all day long."

The answer? Speak of God's righteousness, sing His praises - ALL DAY LONG. Not just when the world spins the way we think it should, not just when life is good and easy, and not just when we feel like it - but ALL DAY LONG!!! No matter the situation of our lives, there is always reason and opportunity to speak of God's righteousness, sing his praises and give thanks.

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 36-38, John 12:1-26

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday, May 29th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 27-29, John 11:1-29

I was planning to write on the Psalms today, and I will still touch on them a bit, but I started reading a sermon by John MacArthur on our John passage and I got all excited about that!

But anyway, psalms first.

Psalm 27 starts off "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?"
The way to overcome our fear is to focus on God. He is our light, our salvation, our stronghold - our everything. It seems simplistic - but it is revealed as truth all around the world as believers face persecution and even death without fear and without renouncing their faith in God. But if we do not take care to cultivate a rock solid relationship with God, we may find it more difficult to put our complete trust and faith in Him when that moment arises.

Psalm 29 is such a majestic description of God's power as displayed in creation.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. (v5)
My Life Application bible says that the cedars of Lebanon were giant trees that could grow to 120' tall and 30' wide - that's a big tree!! And God can break those trees simply with His voice. That kind of power is simply mind-boggling! And the coolest thing is, the power that God has revealed to us in nature, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead - it is available to us!!

So, on to the John passage which is the beginning of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. As I read it I was reminded of a book I reviewed recently called Lazarus Awakening, but then I kind of tuned out a bit because, after all, it's so familiar and I just read a whole book about it so what more could I learn right? Wrong!

When I went looking for a sermon by John MacArthur on this passage, the title Sickness for the Glory of God completely jumped out at me. This has been the only way that we've gotten through our nephew Baret's long battle with illness, especially when he was literally on the verge of death - believing that God is powerful, God is in control, that God is good, that God is love and that ultimately this situation, no matter the outcome, would bring glory to God.

MacArthur mentions three ways the Lazarus miracle gave glory to God...

Number one, it brings glory to God because it points to the deity of Christ. Only God can give life. Jesus had been claiming to be God and now He gives life. And that vindicates His deity....This miracle gives glory to God because it vindicates all the claims of Jesus Christ to be deity, He is not a man, He is not like God, He is not a little sub‑god, He is God of very Gods....

secondly, it confirmed the faith of the disciples. A little while later we'll see how Jesus said I'm glad Lazarus died. You say, "Well, that's kind of a heartless comment." No, because He knew that in the resurrection of Lazarus, the disciples' faith would just take a giant leap forward cause they would see the expression of His power and their faith would be strengthened. So, it brings glory to God because of the strengthening of the disciples' faith.

Third reason it brings glory to God was because it led directly to the cross. You say, "Well, how could the cross bring glory to God?" Listen, the cross was the greatest glorifying event in the life of Christ. Over in chapter 12 verse 23, Jesus said, "The hour is come that the Son of Man should be ... what? ... glorified." Listen, when they put Him on a cross, the world thought that was the end and that was the glorification of Jesus Christ bearing the sins of the world. (emphasis mine)

Isn't that amazing? I believe God was given glory for these same reasons in Baret's sickness and miraculous healing.

It absolutely pointed to the deity and power of God. The doctors had given up hope. There was no medical treatment options left, there was no medical reason to expect anything but death. But they didn't leave room for God.

We knew God could heal Baret. We did not know if He would. And that was such a hard line to walk - how to you merge practicality and medical certainty with hope and faith when you don't know what the outcome will be? That is so hard to walk out in real life. We knew that the outcome would be the one that would bring the most glory to God, but we didn't know which outcome would do that.

Baret and updates about Baret and Deena/Chris' words of faith have been plastered all over Facebook for two months now, being read by believers and non-believers alike. Deena and Chris' updates always reflected the belief that God was all-powerful, that God created Baret's brain and that God was fully capable of healing Baret if He chose to do so. But they also claimed over and over that God would do what was best - whether that meant healing him in this life or the next. And that God would give them the grace to make it through. What testimony! What faith! Truly the reason for Baret's sickness was for the glory of God.

And MacArthur's second point rings true in this situation as well. Baret's sickness and his ultimate healing (though still in the process of fully being realized!) has absolutely strengthened the faith of believers, likely all over the world. It has increased our faith, increased our testimony and increased our witness.

The third point is maybe a stretch, because Baret did not die. But he came as close to it as you possible can - his body had already started shutting down. But God reversed the dying process and began to restore life to Baret's body and brain. Which again, points to God's power and control over life and death, which points to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sickness for the glory of God!

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 31, Psalm 35, John 11:30-57

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday, May 28-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is-- Psalm 24-26 - John 10:22-42

Today's readings begin with this profound verse:

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

Wow. The Lord is the Master of the entire earth- of everything and everyone. My bible's notes say that: "The prelude proclaims the Lord as the Creator, Sustainer, and Possessor of the whole world and therefore worthy of worship and reverent loyalty as the King of Glory." It is hard to wrap my head around this. Everything is His. Mountains and valleys, tornadoes and earthquakes, oceans and deserts-it all belongs to Him. Billy Graham and Osama Bin Laden, aborted babies and euthanized seniors, children bringing guns to school and children fighting for the homeless-they all belong to God. It is hard to fathom the depth and magnitude of what is His.

I found this commentary that provided additional notes on this verse:

The earth is the Lord's - The whole world belongs to God. He is the Creator of the earth, and therefore, its Proprietor; or, in other words, "the property vests in him." It belongs to Him in a sense somewhat similar to our right of property in anything that is the production of our hands, or of our labor or skill. We claim that as our own. We feel that we have a right to use it, or to dispose of it, as we choose. No other person has a right to take it from us, or to dictate to us how we shall employ it. Thus, God, in the highest possible sense, has a right to the earth, and to all which it produces, as being all of it the creation of His hands, and the fruit of His culture and skill. He has a right to dispose of it as He pleases; by fire, or flood, and He has an equal right to direct man in what way He shall employ that portion of the productions of the earth which may be entrusted to Him. All the right which any person has to any portion of the earth's surface, or to what is treasured up in the earth, or to what it is made to produce, is subordinate to the claims of God, and all should be yielded up at His bidding, whether He comes and claims it to be employed in His service, or whether He comes and sweeps it away by fire or flood.

And the fulness thereof - All which it contains; everything which goes to "fill up" the world: animals, minerals, vegetables, people. All belong to God, and He has a right to claim them for His service, and to dispose of them as He pleases....God has a claim on people - upon their services, upon their talents, upon all that they can acquire by labor and skill; He has a right to all that fly in the air, or that walk the earth, or that swim in the sea. On the occasion on which it is supposed that this psalm was written, in bringing up the ark of God, and placing it in the tabernacle provided for it in the capital of the nation, no sentiment could be more appropriate than that which would recognize the universal supremacy of God."

The next Psalm again begins with a powerful verse:

1 In you, LORD my God,
I put my trust.

This is a logical response to the previous verse. It is impossible to understand how we could not put our full trust in God, the maker and master of everything.

4 Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,

Who better to guide us on our life's journey than the author of the map?! He knows the route-He MADE the route- and He knows the best path to take. God may not reveal the entire journey to us at one time but He will show us where we need to go to get to where He is leading. He guides our steps if we will only listen to Him.

This fits perfectly with this New Testament passage:

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[b]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

We are God's creation. He has the right to us. We can put our trust in Him because He is our Creator. He will guide us and teach us. When we listen to Him, no one will take us away. What an amazing promise!

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 27-29 - John 11:1-29

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday, May 27 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 20-22; John 10:1-21.

I find these three Psalms interesting. Obviously, they may not appear in the Scriptures in the order in which they were written and it's possible that many years seperated them. And yet we find David praying for victory in battle in Psalm 20, praising God for victory in Psalm 21, and then crying out to God and feeling very deserted in Psalm 22.

But there's such a beautiful progression in Ps 22 from feeling alone and forgotten to finding restoration, love and peace. Psalm 22, as you have probably figured out, is a highly prophetic Psalm, in that it details very closely the death of Christ on the cross. The very first words are highly recognizable as Jesus' own as He hung there, dying for our sins. Nancy Leigh DeMoss did an INCREDIBLE series a while back on this Psalm and I encourage you to read/listen to all five broadcasts.  And as always, I highly recommend listening, if possible, rather than just reading.  Loading it onto my mp3 player is best, I find, because then I can listen whenever and wherever I want; I don't have to be sitting here at the computer.  (Are you tired yet of me telling you this yet??!)

This Psalm is a great one to remember when it feels like nothing is going your way and that there is no hope.  It's comforting to know that the "man after God's own heart" and Christ, Himself, knew what it was like to feel that way, and yet to seek solace in God the Father.  To find it, and to look forward to the future with joy.  Beautiful.

And then in John we have that soul-satisfying picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  I think it's interesting that here again, we see the same thing we noticed last Friday ~ Jesus' teachings getting harder and harder to understand for the people who didn't understand and didn't care to understand.  Instead of simplifying His initial thought, He seems to make it more complicated and difficult to grasp.  First He's using a pretty simple analogy about being a Shepherd, but then He starts calling Himself the Gate, owning sheep not from "this" pen who need to be brought into the fold, laying down His life for His sheep and then taking it up again...

I can imagine most listeners may have been thorougly confused by the time this conversation was over!  Some called Him crazy; some called Him demon-possessed yet had to face the reality that He had also just cured a man born blind of his blindness.  It's no coincidence at ALL that Jesus used that healing to talk about spiritual blindness.

I love vv. 14-16:  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  

What a great reminder not only for us Gentiles, who were not the people Christ was originally sent to, but for ALL believers to remember we all serve the same God!

A while back, I read a massive book by Chuck Colson called The Body: Being Light in Darkness (and reviewed it here) that really hit me in regards to this aspect.  It's very easy to allow division in our churches and denominations based on our differences, but what we forget is that we're all one flock if we believe and live out the basic foundations of Christianity.  Let's not be so caught up in pointing out our differences that our influence on the unbelieving world is lost in the fray.

We have one Shepherd; we are HIS flock.

Tomorrow's passages: Psalm 24-26; John 10:22-42.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday, May 26 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 17, Psalm 19, John 9:24-41.

I love Psalm 19.  It's a model for a great prayer, I think.  First David praises God by marveling over His creation, in particular the heavens or the sky.  Following that he worships God by acknowledging and accepting God's laws and commandments as being perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, sure, righteous, precious, and sweet.  He asks forgiveness and he asks for help to resist temptation.

I love the verses in the Bible that talk about how amazing and beautiful are God's creations.  The incredible beauty of the earth and the skies, the amazing gracefulness of birds soaring in the sky, or deer or antelope bounding across wide-open spaces.  The fluid movements of the large predators.  There is much to admire in nature.


It goes deeper than simply appreciating the beauty of nature, however.   Excerpts from Nature's Part in God's Perfect Plan by Bob Deffinbaugh have the following to say:

We can learn much about God by considering the works of His hands. Creation highlights a number of God’s attributes--His character traits. Notice His attributes in the following:
(1) Creation witnesses to God’s invisible attributes of eternal power and divine nature.
When Israel went forth from Egypt, The house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary, Israel, His dominion. The sea looked and fled; The Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, The hills, like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, before the Lord, Before the God of Jacob, Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of water (Psalm 114:1-8).

(2) Creation witnesses to God’s grace.
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on therighteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:44-45).
(3) Creation witnesses to God’s faithfulness in caring for His creatures.
And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much moredo so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things (Matthew 6:28-32).
(4) Nature reveals God’s infinite knowledge.
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).
(5) Nature reveals God’s infinite wisdom. 
When Job questioned God’s dealings with him in all of his adversity, he questioned the wisdom of God. God rebuked Job, reminding him of His wisdom as seen in creation:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7; see all of chapters 38 and 39).
(6) Nature reveals God’s holiness. When God delivered His law to the people of Israel from Mt. Sinai, the forces of nature were present to bear witness to the holiness of the One speaking:
So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. And the Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up (Exodus 19:16-20; see 20:18).
(7) Nature reveals God’s glory. In Psalm 19, David praises God for the two forms of revelation known to him--nature (verses 1-6) and biblical revelation, the Law (verses 7-14). David writes that nature continues to reveal the glory of God to men:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. there is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat (Psalm 19:1-6).
(8) Nature reveals God’s righteousness.
The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken, And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth. May our God come and not keep silence; Fire devours before Him, And it is very tempestuous around Him. He summons the heavens above, And the earth, to judge His people: “Gather My godly ones to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” And the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is judge. Selah (Psalm 50:1-6).
The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; Let the many islands be glad. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him, And burns up His adversaries round about. His lightnings lit up the world; The earth saw and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory (Psalm 97:1-6).
(9) Nature reveals a certain standard of conduct. The expression “contrary to nature” or “unnatural” can be used to describe not only fallen man’s worship but also his behavior:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error  (Romans 1:18-27).

There is a lot more to the study, if you are interested.  However, this is already getting long, so I'll just wrap up with a few verses from favourite hymns that talk about the wonders of God's creation (taken from the same study linked above):

How Great Thou Art (Second Stanza)
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee; How great Thou art!
How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Second Stanza)
Summer and winter, and spring-time and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

And finally, some beautiful pictures to refresh your soul...






Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 20-22; John 10:1-21.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 15-16, John 9:1-23

Psalm 16 was such a comfort and a renewal of truth for me today.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; 
   apart from you I have no good thing.” 
I spent a week in a mansion, I kid you not, last week in North Carolina.  It was beautiful.  It had many 'things'.  While I throughly enjoyed myself there, I left wanting stuff.  And that's sad, really.  This scripture reminds me that even if I had everything in that house and around that house, I would still have nothing.  Matthew 16:26 reminds me that "what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?"  These fine folks were Christians, and generous Christians at that.  But I need to remember that no matter how much 'stuff' I have or don't have, it is the Lord who is my portion.  As the psalmist remembers as well:
5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
I worry so much about finances.  Who doesn't?  I worry about VBS getting done 'right' this year (this is my first year to co-direct and the other gals first year too!).  I worry about my kids getting sick, I worry about gaining weight.  I worry, worry, worry.  And constantly, CONSTANTLY, the Lord provides again and again and again.

8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 
The psalmist spells it all out right here.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  What is that famed hymn?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

I don't know about you, but often I feel the Lord teaches me so much more in these posts than I'm able to convey.  I worry so much about many things.  But I need to remember that I have the Lord, He is my portion and all I really need is to keep my eyes on Him.  It's all about Him.  It is so easy to get carried away with my checkbook, or the lists I have for VBS, or even a broken heart, but all of that, all of it, fades in comparison to the face of Jesus.  And I believe we do that everyday when we feast upon His word.

Thank You Father God for Your word, Your gentle reminders.  May we be faithful as You are faithful.

Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 17, Psalm 19,  John 9:24-41

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday, May 24 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalms 12-14, John 8:28-59

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

I'm going to look at the John passage today.
 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants[a] and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.[b] 

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do the things Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the things your own father does.”

Jesus is calling the Jews out on their sin. He is saying - hold strong to me, to my truths. Know me - this truth will set you free. This whole concept was new to his audience - set us free?! From what - we are Abrahams' descendants, we are special - sin and slavery can't touch us, we've got the right bloodline!

They are falling back on the security of being descendants of Abraham. They are acting as though that's their "free pass". That's all they need to be saved. Who can judge them?? God can. Jesus is breaking down these assumptions, he knows that his time on earth is coming to a close, he knows that these individuals are plotting his death, and yet he is still trying to save them. Wow - what love.

John McArthur talks about it wonderfully in one of his sermons.

He is demolishing the Jewish security of being related to Abraham. And they felt that automatically just because they were the seed of Abraham they would have the blessings whether they sinned or whether they didn't sin. And Jesus says that's not how it is. There is no security in religion. There's no security in race. There's no security in good works. Only in Christ is sin forgiven and a man placed righteous before God. It has nothing to do with his ancestry. And Jesus has told them they need forgiveness, and they deny it. And Jesus told them that they need to repent, and they refuse. And Jesus told them they don't know God, and they don't believe that. And Jesus told them they'll die in their sins and they laughed. "We are Abraham's seed. What could happen to us?" And so Jesus gets right down to the real issue. You see, the Jews had all their eggs in one basket, the seed of Abraham. That was their gilt-edged guarantee that they were in forever. And when Jesus said to them in the last portion that we studied last week, He said, "I can give you truth, and I can make you free," they said, "Us? We know the truth, we're already free. We're Abraham's seed, what do we need?" See, they never recognized their need ever. That's so common for people to think they are secure when in fact they are damned by the very thing they hold on to is their security.
Everybody has a security, no man can live without a security. You have to have it. And if you're not so infantile as to suck your thumb and rub your nose with a blanket, your security is something else. Everybody has to have a psychological security. You can't live without it. And tragically most people's securities are going to be that which damns them to hell forever because they're false securities. And we're in the business of trying to explode those false ones and give to a man the only real security, faith in Jesus Christ.

What am I taking security in today? What are things that bring me safety, comfort and assurances that are getting in the way of true security in Jesus Christ? Further on in our friend John McArthur's sermon:

They had no idolatry, now mark this, they had no false heathen religion, they had all the right religion but they were damned. Sobering thought. They were doomed right in the middle of the right religion. You say, "What happened?" Very simple, it was an institutional ritual and not a personal relationship, and so much of religion is institutional, all of it. And what God demands is a personal relationship with Him. And theirs was purely ritualistic. They went through the religious motions and even though they were sitting in the middle of the truth, they were damned by their false securities and their inability to see the personal relationship they needed with God rather than an institutional ritual. 

Father God, reveal my securities. Reveal those things in my life that I am depending on for safety and assurances outside of you. Help me God, to open my heart and be willing to go where you want me to go, do what you want me to do and love you beyond any earthly security I may cling to. Reveal yourself to me today Father creating a new and eager heart for you. Amen.
Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 15-16, John 9:1-23

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday, May 23rd

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 9, Psalm 11, John 8:1-27

Today I want to focus on the passage at the beginning of John 8 where the Pharisees try to trap Jesus by bringing to Him a woman caught in adultery. You can tell it's a trap and that they're not actually interested in justice because they only brought the woman, not the man.

John MacArthur's sermon Jesus, the Friend of Sinners was very enlightening and brought up some points I, at least, had not heard before.

The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus by making Him answer the question - How is it possible to harmonize justice and mercy? A just and holy God would condemn this woman to be stoned. A merciful and loving God would allow her to live. How can He do both?

MacArthur drew two really interesting things out of this passage.

First, notice the difference between the Pharisees and the woman when they are convicted of their sins. They are all convicted. They all know they are sinners.

But what do they do?

The Pharisees leave. They run away from Jesus. They run away from the only One who can forgive their sin.

But what did the woman do? She stayed. She stayed with Jesus.

What do we do when convicted of our sins? Do we react against Jesus and run away? Or do we stay and throw ourselves upon His mercy?

Jesus, as was often the case, did not answer the question they asked him. He saw through their trap.

He said, "The question is not how do you harmonize the judgment of God with the grace of God. The question is what right do you have to be this woman's judge, you vile sinners?" In other words, this is God's business, not yours.....

how can a holy God just say, "Go on, okay, don't do it again." How can He do that? I mean how can God let her off the hook? Somebody has to die. That's just it. You know what Jesus knew as he stood there? I believe this with all my heart. When He said to that woman, "I don't condemn you; go, and sin no more," you know what He knew in His heart, that divine heart? He knew full well that He would die on a cross for her adultery. He knew that. That was the only way. The only reason He could give her forgiveness was because He would bear in His own body her sin. It's the only way, and He knew it.

That's why I say every time Jesus healed somebody, every time Jesus forgave somebody, He experienced the bitterness of the anticipation of the cross. That woman's sin wouldn't go unpunished. It would be placed on Christ, and He would die for her adultery...

That is being a friend to sinners, isn't it?...You look at Jesus Christ, and He's willing to die for your adultery. He's willing to die for your lies. He's willing to die for your curses against His own name. He's willing to die for your inequities in life. He's willing to die for the foul thoughts and deeds and words that have come out of your mouth. He's willing to die for every sin you've ever committed or ever will...and He says to you what He said to the woman, "Woman, I don't condemn you anymore." Listen, I believe this woman was redeemed that day. She stayed to seek the forgiveness of sin. They left, and Jesus gave her what the law cold never give her. Jesus said, "I don't condemn you anymore." "Why?" "Your sin is covered. It's covered. Go, and don't sin again." That's just what He says to us, isn't it? In Christ, your sin is covered. I don't condemn you anymore, but go and don't sin anymore...He knew He'd bear her sin on the cross. What a friend to sinners. (emphasis mine)

When convicted of our sin, the only way to be redeemed is to stay with Jesus and accept the mercy of His forgiveness made possible when He bore that sin on the cross. What a Friend we have in Jesus!

Tomorrow's passage: Psalms 12-14, John 8:28-59

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday, May 22nd

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 7-8; John 7:28-53

John MacArthur has an interesting sermon on our John passage - Reactions to the Claims of Jesus. Includes an interesting explanation for why Jesus thirsty analogy doesn't seem out of place at the Feast.

I'm going to focus on the Psalms, in particular Psalm 8.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of many that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

It is incredible when you think of it. You look at the splendor of the world around us (the fallen splendor at that - I can't wait to see what the New Earth's splendor will look like!), you look at the sky on a clear night and see the galaxies twinkling overhead, you look at the mountain ranges with crystal clear lakes nestled in the valleys - and it can just make you feel so insignificant.

And truthful, a healthy dose of humility never hurt anyone.

But then it continues...

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet. Psalm 8:5-6

God created us just a little lower than himself and the angels - it's amazing! And He gave us the incredible responsibility of ruling over this amazing earth that He created.

We, and we alone, are created in His image. We bear the stamp of the Creator Himself. And THAT is where we need to get our self-image and self-worth from.

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 9, Psalm 11, John 8:1-27

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday May 21 ~ PamJ

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 4-6; John 7:1-27

This will be short today! Hope everyone enjoys the long weekend [albeit a rainy one here!]

Today's reading in Psalm 6, David speaks of healing.

Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.
Heal me, Lord, for my body is in agony. Psalm 6:2

Can God heal us? My Touchpoint Bible notes that He most certainly can repair it and restore it. He can also do so to our mind and spirit. This whole psalm is about prayer and what a powerful healing source it is! It brings us closer to the One who made us.

For me, if I don't open my bible and start my day with the Lord reading his word and praying, I have a pretty bad day and forget to turn to him in prayer, when I need to the most.

Will God heal us? He can. And He does. We don't often know or realize when He does. There are also times when He will let us go unhealed. Is that unfair?

My Touchpoint Bible says, "We must reserve that judgment until we see him face to face and understand why he healed one person but not another, why one person died while another was spared, why one person suffered a lifetime from the effects of abuse and another did not. We don't know all the mysteries of God. But we do know from His Word that He loves us enough to die for us and that He promises we will all be restore to wholeness in eternity."

The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord will answer my prayer. Psalm 6:9

He loves us. He will answer our prayer [and not always the way we may want him to do so]. We will have all we need in eternity.

Today is May 21st, 2011. Around the web & media & gossip, there is talk of today being THE DAY the rapture is to occur. Although Jesus tells us that we will not know the day He is to come back, we should still be prepared for when He is to come. Love Him, accept Him into your heart and your life and bring others to him. Don't let the worldy possessions control you or your life. We can't take them with us in the end. No matter if that end is today, tomorrow, two weeks from now or 200 years.

Lord, I pray to you, knowing you hear my prayer. I pray that you heal my mind, heal my heart, and renew in me a right spirit. I pray for those reading this blog, and those who don't, that they can start their day off right with You, knowing that You love them so much more than they will ever know... I pray that You can renew their spirit as well Lord. We lift them up to you Lord. Let Your light shine!! Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 7-8; John 7:28-53

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday, May 20 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Samuel 23-24; John 6:41-71 .

So in our Old Testament reading, we come to the end of David's life and a recap of his mighty men, some of their deeds, and then the sad tale of one more failure.  It's interesting to me that here in 2 Samuel, it says God was once again furious with His people, so "God incited David against them" and ordered the census that they were all later punished for.  But in 1 Chronicles, it says "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census."  Interesting, eh?

These accounts are presumably written about 500 years apart, so obviously the authors are different, but I find it curious that the author of the story written several hundred years after the fact (according to Jewish tradition, this was the prophet Ezra) has a very different view from the first-hand account author's!  Somewhat controversial.

And speaking of controversy....  Not to stir any up or anything, but did anyone catch the teaching of divine election in Jesus' words in John?  ;)

John MacArthur has a FASCINATING 3-part series of messages on this passage (I only got through the first two before my mp3 player needed recharging, but seriously, REALLY interesting stuff!  John 6:41-50, vv. 51-59, vv. 60-71) and he makes a couple of really interesting points that I want to draw your attention to.

First, this message is given to the Galileans who just the day before, had been a part of Jesus' 5-loaves-and-2-fishes lunch program.  The next day, they boat over to Capernaum and want breakfast, too.  So Jesus opens with this "bread of life" talk and they're instantly interested, because they figure there's another miraculous and free meal in it for them.  They want something for nothing.  They want a socialist welfare program.  Jesus doesn't give it to them.  Instead, He explains what He means about being the Bread of Life.  And suddenly they're not interested.  They begin to grumble.  A little more teaching, and people begin to walk away bitter and unbelieving.  The Galileans are now hostile to Christ.

The second point in MacArthur's sermon that really hit me ties into the first one:  as the people's unbelief becomes more and more obvious, Jesus' teaching gets more and more difficult to understand.  This is a perfect example of God confounding the minds of the unbelievers, very similar to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in Exodus, actually.  MacArthur says:

I want to show you two fantastic passages, two of the most important passages in all of the Bible will illustrate this. John 12:37, I want you to get these because these are basic doctrine, this is doctrine and this is heavy, as the vernacular goes. Verse 37 of John 12, now watch this, "But there He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him." Now watch this, "That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled which he spoke, 'Lord, who had believed our report and to whom at the arm of the Lord been revealed?' Therefore they...what?...could not believe."

What do you mean? They would not, so...what?...they could not. What is that? That is judicial blinding. They hardened their hearts, so God hardened their hearts. You harden your heart against the gospel of Jesus Christ after you have heard it, you are on dangerous ground-dangerous ground. Verse 39, "Therefore they could not believe because Isaiah said, 'He hath blinded their eyes and...what?...hardened their hearts that they should not see with their eyes, or understand with their hearts and be converted and I should hear them.'" God actually prevents them from being saved, that's serious stuff.

Now you can go back to John 6. Now that is tremendous...that is tremendous truth to grasp. You say, "Well why would God do that?" Well the heart that hardens against God is confirmed in hardness. In the case of Israel, judicial blindness. Well, did it have a purpose? Is God just doing that? Oh it had a great purpose. The purpose of Israel's judicial blindness is indicated in Romans chapter 11 verses 8 to 11, where God says in blinding Israel salvation came to the Gentiles. By setting Israel in its judicial blindness, God then moved to the Gentiles with the message of Jesus Christ. You say, "Yeah, but that's kind of hard on Israel." Well ultimately the Bible also says that this blinding is not permanent and it's not total. You know there are some believing Jews right now coming to Jesus Christ. There have been a remnant in every age. It's not total blindness. There are a few who come to Christ, very few. But beyond that, Romans 11:26 says, "Some day, so all Israel shall be...what?...saved." So the blinding of Israel has a purpose, it is to allow the gospel to move to the Gentiles. (all emphasis added)

Isn't that absolutely incredible??!  It is exactly because of this rejection from His own people that WE were able to hear the gospel!!  Once again, we see the sovereign hand of God, even in the things that don't honour Him, but will eventually work with everything else to bring Him greater glory than if it hadn't happened.

Awesome God by KPMoorse @ DeviantArtGod is so amazing!!

Tomorrow's passages: Psalm 4-6; John 7:1-27.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday, May 19 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Samuel 21-22; Psalm 18; John 6:22-40.

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or night!

Our John passage today was short, sweet, and to the point.  It really summed up exactly who Jesus is, why he came, and what we need to do to have eternal life.  We do put too much emphasis on this life, I think.  We've talked about this before.  I don't think we should be so focused on eternity that we neglect to enjoy our lives here on earth, but we need to constantly be assessing our priorities to make sure that we are doing the work of God for food that endures to eternal life.  Believe.  Simply put, that is the work of God according to today's reading.  Belief spawns so many other things, but at the root of it all is simply that faith.  Faith that Jesus is the Son of God.  Faith that Christ's blood has washed away our sin.  Faith that we will be provided for.  Faith that all things, good and bad, big and small, will work together as parts of God's plan and for the good of His children.  Faith that He is God, He is good, He is faithful, He keeps his promises.  Faith that He knows best.  And from those things come our HOPE.

Hope being one of the themes of the Psalm we read twice today.  According to Richard D. Patterson in The Believer's Hope:

Although the word hope does not appear in Psalm 18, the psalm itself is a powerful testimony of David’s gratitude and commitment to the One who alone has been and continues to be his only sure hope. The psalm revolves around David’s expression of thanks to God for delivering him from a desperate situation and granting him victory over his enemies. Although David’s praise of God and confidence in him are clearly expressed throughout the psalm, “The original situation is not entirely clear.” Yet, judged by David’s description and testimony to God’s deliverance, it must have been an exceptionally dangerous one. His praise and thanks to the Lord are so expressive that the psalm is permeated with many figures of speech that bear witness to David’s love and adoration, and the overwhelming emotions that he felt.  (emphasis mine)

Psalm 18 is actually repeated in 2 Samuel 22, as I'm sure you noticed.  The Psalm brought an old hymn to mind which expresses better than I can my thoughts and feelings as I was reading today's OT passage.

Tomorrow's passage:  2 Samuel 23-24; John 6:41-71.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday, May 18 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 64, Psalm 70, John 6:1-21

Happy Wednesday everyone!

I was rather excited to see this passage, I just preached on it the other Sunday!  It's still very fresh in my mind.

I hope you don't mind, but this is an excerpt from my sermon, focusing in on the boy in our reading in John.

Our passage tells us that a small lad, a boy, probably no older than some of our kids, had his lunch. Five loaves and two fish. And still the disciples reason what that is among so many. But again, Jesus ignores the doubt, thanks his Father for his provision and commands the disciples to disperse the food. Everyone sits, waiting in anticipation for Jesus to again serve, as he said he came to do and indeed they are served. Everyone eats to their fill. And, as there usually is at every meal, there is leftovers. So not only is every filled, but there is more than enough.  

Wow! We've all heard this story so many times that we often glaze over it. But this is a huge miracle! This boy probably came like so many others to see the wonders that always seem to follow Jesus. We are all drawn to the strange, abnormal and wonderful. Jesus was all of those. And he was well prepared, he brought something to eat. But when there was a need, even though it was a great need, he gave what he had out of his hands. He gave his lunch to Jesus. But now he didn't have anything to eat. Ah, but he remained in the crowd, so it's safe to say that he was a part of those receiving the blessed food. He probably had more to eat than what he came with. That's the way God is. You cannot outgive God. 

Luke 6:38 says Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete with it shall be measured to you again.
 Give to God and He'll give back what you gave and more. If you use a half cup measure He'll use the same but that little cup will be overflowing with more than what you gave. Don't be afraid to give to God when He asks you. You'll end up with more back.

How many times do we say: I don't have enough, that's too big a need, I'm not smart enough, I'm not fast enough, I'm not ...enough. I'm not enough. Jesus came to show up the big and mighty and used the poor to say “I am enough”. Give to him yourself and watch him make you bigger than you ever thought you could be. Give what little you think you have and watch it be more for Jesus.

You see He wants all of us. He wants our prosperity and our poverty. He wants our health and he wants our pain. Look at what he accepted from the boy. Scripture tells us it was 5 barley loaves. In reading up on this text I found out that barley is the food of the poor. It's no surprise that poor people followed Christ. And it's no surprise that among all of them, all they could find were 5 barley loaves and two small fishes. But even out of this little boys meager, poor meal, he gave it. God wants the same from us. He wants the poor parts of our lives. Our griefs, our pains, out brokenness, because he can use them to bless others. This world is fraught with pain and brokenness. This broken world is just looking for answers and a hope. If we are as liberal with our brokenness as Christ wants us to be with our prosperity, we can share that hope with others, because Christ has shared his hope with us.

Even Jesus was asked by God to give everything. Something that we are asked to do. Something that we all hold within our hands. He was asked to give his life. He knows all about giving all you have. He did it. And think about who he gave it for? He gave it for you and for me. Certainly helps to put all things that we are asked to give in perspective, doesn't it? We need to be prepared to give our lives for Christ. Because he gave his for us, we should willingly do no less.

Sometimes God asks us to sacrifice for Him through death, yes, but more often than not, he asks for us to sacrifice for Him through our lives. He just doesn't want the things we have, our money, our homes, even our families, He wants our lives. He wants us, our hearts, our dreams, desires, our heartbreak, our anger, our frustration. He wants us to give him everything.

A few weeks ago our church hosted a missions banquet in which a missionary spoke on behalf of her husband and herself. They have three young children. The youngest is three. They are taking their whole family, leaving everything they've made for themselves here in America, their business, their home, their family, friends, security, doctors and going to Haiti. They are giving up everything. When I heard her speak about the struggle she experienced when God placed the call on her life, I thought of this text. That little boy could've said “no, I'm not going to give my little lunch. It's mine! I am going to keep it for myself. I am going to eat it and be satisfied. Who knows what Jesus wants to do with it. Maybe he wants to eat it and leave me hungry.” But he didn't say that. Well we don't know what he said, but we know what he did. He did give his lunch to Jesus and that takes a step of faith. He could've gone hungry, but instead he was fully satisfied, along with everyone else.  

Jesus took something so very little, blessed it, multiplied it and used it to bless others and the little boy who gave it! And there was so much more leftover! The little boy sacrificed, but he ended up with more than he gave!

What is Jesus asking you for? What is he waiting for you to give so that he can bless it? So that he can bless others and yourself through your very own sacrifice? What does Jesus want from your hands?  

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Samuel 21-22, Psalm 18, John 6:22-40