Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday, June 30 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Ecclesiastes 7-9; Acts 10:1-23.

Well, I know Ecclesiastes doesn't make for uplifting reading, but I find myself drawn into the passages this year as opposed to last year where I kind of read through them quickly to avoid the doom and gloom and "meaningless, meaningless, meaningless" and "chasing after the wind".  On, I found a sermon by Keith Krell called When Bad is Better that has a lot of very interesting things to say.  If you have the time, I would recommend you read the whole thing.  If not, these excerpts capture what I was trying to formulate in my mind as I was reading the first chapter of today's passage.  Mr. Krell expresses it much better than my attempts.

In this passage, we will discover that some of the medicine that tastes the worst has the best cure. Solomon answers the question he raised in 6:12, “For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life?”236 In doing so, he gives seven “better than” proverbs (i.e., proverbs of comparative value) to answer his own question.237 In fact, the word “good/better” appears eleven times in this chapter.238  In the first four verses, Solomon suggests that there is much to be gained by sober reflection on sorrow and death. In 7:1a he writes, “A good239 name is better than a good ointment.” This section starts by establishing that a good name (i.e., reputation) is better than a good ointment (i.e., perfume or cologne).240 To make it more relevant, a good name is better than Euphoria or Giorgio. The point of this proverb is: The character of one’s reputation is more valuable and enduring than the scent of perfume. A good name can live beyond the grave,241 but the scent of perfume ceases to linger. We could say, “Who we are is more important than what we have or do not have!”
I grew up watching Kyle Rote, Jr. play soccer. Kyle’s father is Kyle Rote, Sr., who was an all-pro NFL player in the 1950s. He was the captain of the New York Giants for ten years. What is so fascinating is after Rote’s death, Kyle Jr., said of all the compliments and awards his dad had received, one stood above the rest: fourteen of the elder Rote’s former teammates named their sons Kyle.242(emphasis mine)  The reputation of Kyle Rote, Sr. was so impressive that his teammates wanted to name their boys after him. The Rotes are a Christian family that has a legacy that outlives their earthly lives.

What legacy are we leaving behind when our earthly lives are over?

  Consider the work of God, for who is able to straighten what He has bent? In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.”

Solomon explains that we cannot understand why God uses adversity and prosperity as He does.275 God “bends” certain things and there is nothing we can do about it. Affliction is the appointment of God.276 It is generally futile to try to figure such things out; we can’t straighten what God has made crooked. There are “crooked” things we cannot straighten, and we must learn to believe and say, “God, you are God. You are good and powerful. I trust you. I believe in you. And even though I don’t like some of the things that come from your hand, I think I accept them with joy.” God does not waste sorrow or adversity. He knows the purpose for which we go through tragedy and sorrow. It is for our good, and the good of His kingdom.
A man or woman of faith trusts God. Therefore, when times are good, be happy. Enjoy what you have. Don’t waste the opportunity by trying to accumulate more. Don’t wait for retirement. Enjoy now. One of the saddest things in life is the fact that when our children are young and most enjoyable we fathers tend to be busier than ever, establishing ourselves in business and preparing for the children’s future. Unfortunately, too often, by the time we have their college education secured they are gone and there’s little opportunity to enjoy them. When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, be patient. Be patient because the same God who made the good times has allowed the bad. Neither situation is outside of His sovereignty and there is no sure way of knowing what’s coming next. Try as we might, we cannot prepare for all contingencies, and while God expects us to be prudent, He does not want us to play God. There are times when you just have to play the cards which you have been dealt. Remember that it is God who is the dealer. What you have has been given by Him. Adversity is better than prosperity.   (emphasis mine)

Sometimes when we are going through something hard, we are so busy working, attempting to manage, or worrying about the situation, that we don't realize that others are taking note of how we are handling things.  I've been told a few times recently that people see me as being calm.  I don't take any credit for this... part of it is that I'm simply by nature not a high-stress person or a worrier, but the other part I attribute to faith.  My hope and prayer is that people will understand that calm comes not from being in control of the situation (I am completely aware that most things are not within my control) but from faith in God that everything will come out for the best, somehow.  Not MY best, HIS best.  I will do the best I can in a given situation and trust that God will take my efforts and all other factors in play and use them for his purposes.  Not necessarily the way I wanted them, but the way that will be of the most benefit (perhaps to someone other than me), even if I never get to find out why.  I'm not very good at sharing my faith with others, but maybe opportunities will arise at some point because of a seed I didn't know I planted.  What could be better than that?

Have a wonderful Thursday and a fantastic Canada Day or Independence Day weekend!

Tomorrow's passage:  Ecclesiastes 10-12; Acts 10:24-48.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday, June 29 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Ecclesiastes 4-6, Acts 9:23-43

Today (tuesday) marks three weeks of dealing with some sort of virus making it's rounds in my family.  It's left it's familiar mark on everyone as it left and now it's settled on me.  I love the SOAP method for bible study when my brain isn't really 'there', so that's what I'll be employing today.

Acts 29:3In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.

Tabitha was a very active member of The Way.  So much so that when she died the people around her sought out Peter to revive her, I believe, so that she could continue her ministry.

I often feel guilty for 'doing'.  I'm a do-er.  I feel this guilt in the light of the story of Mary and Martha.  Martha was not chided for what she was doing, but rather for not choosing the best.

The story of Tabitha shows me that doing is not wrong, in fact, some are created and gifted to 'do'.  It spreads the gospel, shows the light to those who are in darkness.  But the story of Tabitha also shows me that my doing had better be for the Glory of God and not for the betterment of myself.

Ooo, ouch.  That's been a lesson God's been teaching me lately.  Who am I doing this for?  Who is going to receive the glory for this one?  I believe we need to be careful to remember that this life, our lives are not about us.  They are for the glory of God, for the furthering of His kingdom, to make Him famous.

Tabitha's friends I'm sure missed her, I'm sure some of their desires were to have her back because she was a good friend.  But I don't think that's all it was.  I believe she was an active part of the body at Joppa and they knew they would feel the void without her there.

God was glorified in her living, doing and in her death and resurrection.  I pray we can all say the same.

Father God our lives are for You.  You have created us with gifts and talents, show us how to use them for Your glory, for Your purpose.  Guide us Father.  We seek to honor You.  Love you God.  Amen.    

Tomorrow's passage: Ecclesiastes 7-9; Acts 10:1-23

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday, June 28th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Ecclesiastes 1-3, Acts 9:1-22

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. Ecclesiastes 3:11b

God has purposefully built into our hearts the desire for eternity and the yearning for the perfection of heaven.

You've heard it said that there is a hole in our souls that only God can fill, and this verse testifies to that truth. God created us in His image. We are spiritual beings who long for the perfection of heaven. We have eternal value, and nothing but our eternal God will ever satisfy us. We may look for satisfaction in this present life - whether it's in money, fame, sex, power or "stuff" - but we will not find it. Not on earth. Because God designed us that way.

He designed us to long for Him. He designed us to long for a relationship with him. He designed for us to long for a relationship with Him that is unhindered by the sin of this world.

When we become Christians, that God-sized hole becomes, I think, a God-sized crack. We absolutely can, and do, experience a true relationship with God while on earth and all the satisfaction and peace that comes with it. But even so, we long for home.

Dear heavenly Father, we know that you are our Creator. The Creator of heaven and earth. The Creator of man, made in Your image. Thank You for creating us with eternity in our heart, with that desire for You. Forgive us for searching for fulfillment in other ways. Thank you for the sacrifice of Your Son - the only way for us to restore our relationship with You, the only way to fill that hole in our soul. And thank You for the promise we have of heaven, where we will do innumerable things, but one of which will be to celebrate the intimate relationship we will be able to enjoy with You unhindered by the sins and cares of this world. Thank You for that hope. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Ecclesiastes 4-6, Acts 9:23-43

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday, June 27 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is  1 Kings 10-11, Acts 8:26-40

Happy Monday Everyone! I cannot believe we are at the end of June already! That's crazy!

Our actions today, affect generations to come. Good or bad. In reading today's passage I was struck by the wealth of King Solomon. It sounds absolutely astounding!

King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. (1King 10:23-24)

His wealth was not just material things and wisdom. Unfortunately he also had all the women he wanted. I could not believe it when I read about his wives and concubines! 700 wives of royal birth (not just random women, but women of ROYAL birth!) and then 300 concubines. 1000 women that he was committed to and had children with. And surprise surprise, his wives lead him astray. Afterall, who has the most influence in our lives? Our partners right? King Solomon could choose all the royal advisers he wanted, but with 1000 women around him from different countries worshiping idols, there was bound to be trouble. And God knew it.

They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” (1 Kings11:2)

And so, sure enough, over time these 1000 women turned the heart of Solomon towards their idols and note, it doesn't say anywhere that Solomon gave up on God. It doesn't say he turned is back on God and jumped all the way into idol worship, it just says:

 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech[m] the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. (1 King 10:4-6)

He still loved God, just with distractions of trying to please his 1000 wives and dabbling into their worlds to make his life just a little easier to deal with by pleasing them. It can't be that bad, after all, he still loved God and followed him with part of his heart, what's the big deal? How often don't I do this? I dabble in things of this world, because it just makes life so much easier!

So what's that rest of the story here? What's the harm with taking a sidebar of not following the Lord completely? The decisions I make today affect not only me, but the lives and eternity of future generations of my children, grandchildren etc. My committed or divided heart will affect the work of the Holy Spirit in my descendants lives.

11 So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. (1Kings 11:11-12)

The Lords punishment of Solomon was declared onto the life of his son. Let's think about that. The Lord's punishment of Solomon was declared onto the life of his son. Insert name here...

The punishment of Jody is declared onto the life of her son.

Sobering thoughts. Friends, our divided hearts must be defeated, if not for victory in our own lives here on earth, but for victory in our children's lives. The good thing about this story for me is that the Lord appeared to Solomon twice to turn Solomon away from his idol worship. He is speaking to us, through prayer, through His Word and through wise, Godly council. Listen. Follow. Repent. We can claim victory over our lives and the lives of the generations that follow us.

Tomorrow's passage: Ecclesiastes 1-3, Acts 9:1-22

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday, June 26th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Kings 8-9 - Acts 8:1-25

It is impossible to limit the Holy Spirit.

Satan probably thought he had come up with the sure-fire way to stop the spread of Christianity - persecution.

Stephen is the first martyr. And his death results in what initially appears to be a victory for evil as the church scatters and Saul is all fired up to destroy the church.

And it is a bad situation.

Stephen had so much potential. The Bible refers to him as a man "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5) and "a man full of God's grace and power, [who] did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). This was an educated, passionate, faithful, holy man. His potential for future ministry was huge! But then his life was cut tragically short. That sure does sound like a victory for evil, doesn't it?

In his sermon, The Persecuted Church Reaches Out, John MacArthur says....

The Holy Spirit is in the business of turning negatives into positives, of taking disasters and turning them into miracles. You can't blockade the Holy Spirit. He likes to takes those kind of tragedies and turn them into victory.

If you've been with us in our study of the book of Acts, you know what He's done with Peter and John. Every time they got in a hopeless situation, it just was a greater opportunity to preach the gospel. Every time they got into a negative scene, the Spirit of God turned it into a positive. Every time the persecution arose, the preaching followed right on it's heels. And God allowed the gospel to reach into areas and the hearts of people who could never otherwise be reached, other than through persecution. It's kind of like trying to stamp out a fire, and the harder you jump on it, the more you scatter the embers and start fires all over everywhere. And that's exactly what happened. They started jumping all over the church in Jerusalem and all they did was send the embers all over the world, because that's how the Holy Spirit works.....

That's what the Holy Spirit wants to use. And I'm not talking about sin; I'm talking about a negative situation. God uses persecution. And the first great missionary movement of the church began with persecution. The church had been in Jerusalem all this time, in Jerusalem, and finally the catalyst that shocked the church out was persecution. Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs has become the seed of the church." Stephen's death was a catalyst. In fact, persecution was so tied in with preaching Jesus Christ, that the word for witness is margarus,and it came to mean martyr. It just was natural, seemingly. It was just intrinsic to being a believer that you confer to the world and you got a negative reaction. But that was only impetus for new evangelism and new opportunity. (emphasis mine)

God used the death of Stephen to further His kingdom. In fact, if you go far enough down the line, Stephen's death was the catalyst, not just for Saul's destruction of the church, but for Saul's redemption, and the beginning of Paul's ministry. And I don't think it's possible to overstate Paul's influence on the Church.

But at the time, to Stephen's fellow believers, friends and family, his death must've seemed like a crushing blow. It sure would've to me!

That's because we are only able to look at things through a human perspective. We can't see the bigger picture. We can only see the underside of the tapestry and boy, does the underside of the tapestry look like a disaster. But when you flip it over, when you get even a glimpse of the incredible handiwork of the Master Himself, then it all makes sense, then the beauty can be recognized for what it is.

But we live here on earth, with human perspective, limited by space and time and to the knowledge we've been given by God. And so we need to trust that that beautiful tapestry is there, waiting for it's full glory to be revealed at the chosen time.

Hebrews 1:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

So much easier said than done, but no one said faith was easy. If it was easy, it wouldn't be so commendable and there would be no Hebrews list of those worthy of being inducted into the "faith hall of fame".

So no matter how hard it is, no matter how little sense it makes - when it looks like evil has gotten a foothold, take heart, have faith and look and see what God will do!

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Kings 10-11, Acts 8:26-40

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday, June 25-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Kings 5-7; Acts 7:44-60.

Scripture: Acts 7:59-60
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Observation: Stephen's last words are so similar to Jesus' as He sacrificed His life.

Application: It's hard enough to imagine Jesus' suffering and pain but He had at least had the knowledge of God's plan. Stephen had faith and it was enough to make him willing to sacrifice everything for the glory of God. Not only does he call out the angry mob of people but as they are killing him, he asks the Lord to forgive them. I often struggle with forgiving and it is certainly not something I would think about in the midst of a terrible situation. Stephen selflessly gave everything following the example of His Saviour. He gave willingly, he gave bravely, and he gave everything. Just like Jesus did. It should be our desire to live, and give, in the same way that he did so that we too can echo his words in our own lives.

Prayer: Dear Lord, You are awesome and wonderful. We are lucky to have accounts of people like Stephen to strengthen our own faith walk. Lord, we often struggle sharing the Good News with others because we are afraid of what others may think. Stephen was not afraid because he knew He was speaking the truth. He was sharing your words with others, even in his last earthly breath. Thank you that we also have the ability to speak your words because we have access to scripture. Impress these words on our hearts and make us confident to share Your message with everyone. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Kings 8-9 - Acts 8:1-25

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday, June 24 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Song of Solomon 6-8; Acts 7:22-34.

I really just want to draw your attention to three little verses from today's readings.  Kathryn did such a great job of talking about the book of Song of Solomon as a whole the other day!

First, in Song 8:1-2, the woman talks about wishing her lover was rather her brother because then it would be acceptable to show him affection in public.  In Near Eastern cultures of that day (possibly even today as well), it would have only been prostitutes who would have publicly displayed affection for a man who wasn't a relative.  It was just lewd and very improper.  I found myself kinda wishing, as I read this, that it was viewed as a little more improper in our over-sexed culture, too!

The second verse, also from Song of Solomon, kind of ties into this theme.  In the same chapter, v. 8-9 talk about a young girl who isn't what we would call "of dating age" yet, she's still not through puberty, and the Friends are asking what they can do to keep her pure for her wedding day.

"If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her.
If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar,"

they say.  My Bible notes that these friends have decided that if this young girl remains a virgin until marriage, standing firm like a wall against sexual temptation, they will praise her and encourage her.  But if she is like a door, open to immorality, they will take steps to guard her from doing something foolish.

I think this is not only an indication of how early parents need to teach their children about sexual purity, but it's also a reminder of how we need to help others guard their hearts and their bodies against temptation. It IS our business to work at keeping the Body of Christ pure and holy! And I don't think this is limited to sexual temptations, but any kind of temptation that will potentially harm relationships with God, with the Church, with families.... we need to be a little more willing to take responsibility for shoring up the walls of protection around our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, doing what we can to keep them fight temptation and from sinning against God.  Most importantly, I think we need to realize this may also require us to change something about ourselves.  In this incredibly "personal rights"-centered culture we live in, we need to be willing to change ~ even though, in our opinion, it shouldn't matter to anyone but us and God ~ if it will benefit the spiritual lives of others.

The third passage that caught my eye was from the reading in Acts, where Stephen is in the middle of his history lecture:  "[Moses] saw one of [his fellow Israelites] being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by kiilling the Egyptian.  Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not."  (7:24-25, emphasis added)

Stephen's interpretation of this incident gives us another dimension to the story given in Exodus 2.  We don't really read there the motive behind Moses' actions and we tend to assume the interpretation ends with his indignation at how the Israelites were being treated.  But according to Stephen, though this incident occurred 40 years before God spoke to Moses from the burning bush about leading His people out of Egypt, Moses possibly had his own notions of grandeur.  Maybe he saw his potential, and decided to start playing the part of deliverer.  Having survived the slaughter of Hebrew infants and been raised as Egyptian royalty, maybe he knew he was in a perfect position to rescue his people.

According to these verses though, it seems he figured he could do it all on his own.  And just like the Israelites later spent 40 years wandering in the desert because they insisted they knew better than God, Moses now will spend 40 years in the desert before God can even begin to use him.

I think this is another clear case of God's hand and control in all these events.  Yes, He'd chosen Moses to lead His people out of slavery, but He was going to make sure Moses' heart and mind were fixed on Him first.  Moses evidently had a lot to learn about God.  He'd spent 40 years growing up as a prince in Egypt; now God needed another 40 years of re-educating him and re-shaping his heart before he would really be ready for the job, which consumed the last 40 years of his life.

Chances are, we won't live to be 120 years old like Moses did ~ I hope we're becoming the people God wants us to be and doing the jobs God wants us to do NOW already!

Tomorrow's passages: 1 Kings 5-7; Acts 7:44-60.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday, June 23 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Song of Solomon 4-5; Acts 7:1-21

Good day!

I don't have a whole late to say about the Song of Solomon passage today.  Two things came to me, as follows:

** Today's passage talked in some detail about the physical attributes each person appreciated about the other.  I don't think there is anything wrong with appreciating one another's appearance, particularly between people who are married.  Physical appearance should never be at the top of the list of reasons for being with or marrying someone, but let's face it - it's often one of the first things that draws us to someone.  On the other hand, I have found that the better you get to know someone and the more you like him or her and enjoy their company, the more attractive they appear to you.  I believe that is part of God's design.

**  "This is my lover, this is my friend," is at the end of today's reading.  I don't know if any of you experienced sex prior to marriage.  If not, that's great.  As someone who has, let me tell you that if there isn't anything else between you and the other person, the physical pleasure is still there, but there is an emptiness to it, especially afterwards.  Many people make the mistake of assuming that physical intimacy will lead to or even take the place of real intimacy with another person.  This is absolutely false!  It is fleeting and momentary and always leads to a deeper feeling of emptiness, requiring further efforts to fill it.  One of the main reasons why sex is to be reserved for marriage - where love, appreciation, and friendship with each other is already there.  Only then is it fulfilling.

Our Acts reading today was basically a recitation of Jewish history.  I did a post on Acts 6-8 last year and referenced a study by Bob Deffinbaugh called The Stoning of Stephen.  I learned a lot from that, and some of it will only be applicable as we read "the rest of the story" (Paul Harvey, anyone?), but just to help you understand why Stephen felt it necessary to give the Sanhedrin a history lesson, here is an excerpt:

Basically, there were false witnesses brought in to testify to two primary charges: Stephen was speaking against “the holy place,” and he was advocating an alteration of the customs handed down by Moses.

Stephen’s sermon is his inspired response to these two primary charges pertaining to Jerusalem and the temple as the “holy place” and to the customs of Moses. As Stephen led his accusers on their trek through the history of Israel, he was seeking to demonstrate two fundamental concepts: (1) The history of Israel bears out the fact that much of the life of the Jews was spent outside of the land; and, (2) that for all their smug self-righteousness, Israel had always shown themselves to be rebels against Moses and against the Law which was given through him

They (the Jews of Stephen's day) knew that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem and would reign as King from His holy temple. They thought that Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were all necessities for the kingdom to come. No wonder these Hellenistic Jews were willing to give up all that they possessed to reach the “holy place.” How blasphemous it must have seemed to them to hear Jesus (first), the apostles, and now Stephen speaking of the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem. They understood this as a rejection of the kingdom. With the dashing of Jerusalem, all of their messianic hopes were dashed as well.

The problem, however, was that their understanding of the kingdom, and of how it was to be established on earth, was wrong. Indeed, in the context of this quotation of Isaiah 66:1-2, several important truths are revealed. First, God would bring judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple. Second, that God would bring salvation to the Gentiles. Third, when God came to the earth to establish His kingdom, He would create a new Jerusalem and a new temple. Israel’s man-made temple would be destroyed along with the city of Jerusalem. God would create His own Jerusalem and His own temple, which He would bring down from heaven. The destruction of Jerusalem and the demolition of the temple was not a rejection of the kingdom, or a hindrance, but a prerequisite to it. This was a necessary step, clear the ground as it were, so that God’s temple could be brought to the earth. God is not a remodeler. He will destroy the old earth and the old heavens so that the new heavens and earth may come.

Have a great Thursday!

 Tomorrow's passage:  Song of Solomon 6-8; Acts 7:22-43

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday, June 22 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Song of Solomon 1-3, Acts 6

And so we begin the part of the Bible that, I believe, proves that God didn't design intimacy between a husband and wife just for procreation.  He also designed it for recreation.  There, I said it.  Sex, in it's initial design, was meant for procreation, yes, but also for the mutual enjoyment of both the husband and the wife.  There is so very little discussed about sex in the church.  Our young people are hungry for information in this area and since the church provides very little answers, they go elsewhere and get misinformation.  When I read the Songs I see that God says "Yes!  Have sex!  Yes, enjoy sex!  Yes!  Want sex!  However, my dear children, enjoy it in marriage, with your spouse, edifying and lifting the other person up."  It is my desire to communicate that to the youth in our church.  I want them to hear how sex was designed by God to be, not only outside of marriage, but also inside of marriage.  I got the feeling, before I was married, that I was not supposed to enjoy it.  It was supposed to be a 'duty' that I had to do.  Something I maybe allowed my husband to do to me every once in a while when he had begged me enough.  I don't see that at all with this woman.
2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— 
   for your love is more delightful than wine. 3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;    your name is like perfume poured out.    No wonder the maidens love you! 4 Take me away with you—let us hurry! 
   Let the king bring me into his chambers.  
This woman has a sense of urgency.  She can't wait to get alone with this man!  Granted, some would say this is honeymoon love and yes, there is an urgency and a frequency that is often not like any other time in marriage.  Circumstances, children, exhaustion can all take time away from this very good marriage builder.

But I want to encourage you with something I have found in my own marriage that shores up where we cannot.  And that is prayer.  Some may think it silly and I felt a bit ridiculous when I prayed for God to bless my husband and I in this area.  But you know what?  The Lord did.  I encourage you too, if you are married, to pray for the Lord's blessing in this area.  Marriage is such a good teacher for our relationship with Christ, He wants all areas of our marriage to be blessed.

I know some older commentators like to say that the Songs is only about the relationship between Christ and the church and while I would agree that there are some strong analogies that we can draw from that, I really do believe it is the true love story between a man and a woman.  I love that the bible touches all areas of life, from the most appalling to the very appealing, God has something to say about everything.  It tells me that He cares for all aspects of our lives.  Thank you Father God!

 Tomorrow's passage: Song of Solomon 4-5, Acts 7:1-21

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday, June 21st

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Proverbs 30-31, Acts 5:22-42

For a great series on Proverbs 31 (I know, your first instinct is not to go there, cause who can compete with the Proverbs 31 woman, but believe me - this series is worth it!!) check out Nancy Leigh DeMoss from Revive our Hearts.

Today I wanted to discuss Gamaliel's advice to the Sanhedrin. Was it biblical?

Consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. Acts 5:35b-39

So, was this good advice? Was it biblical?

It sure sounds like good advice, on first glance.

"Consider carefully what you intend to do to these men." Yep, that was good advice ;)

Next, he gave two examples of leaders whose movements died off when they did. In the second example he gave, he misrepresented things a bit. Judas' followers became the Zealots - so leaving things alone wasn't quite as effective a strategy in that case as he would lead us to believe.

"if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." Now that is bang on! As Christians, we may (in fact we will) lose some battles, but we win the war. We already know that! Our victory is certain. Fighting against God will ultimately result in defeat. So, he's absolutely correct in that advice.

But what about this part.....?
"For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail."

Nope, not biblical, not true.

If it were true, than anything that is successful would be from God and that is clearly not the case.

There are millions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and athiests in the world. I'd say that's successful right there. But God certainly has nothing to do with any of that!

If we're going to determine God's pleasure and blessing based on success, then that would mean God is pleased with Playboy, Labatt Blue, Vegas strip clubs and casinos. Clearly, not so.

It sounds right, but it's not right. And isn't that exactly the way Satan likes to try to trip us up?

How are we to determine if someone's advice is good? We determine whether or not it's good by determining whether or not it's biblical.

That's what Gamaliel should've said. He should've said - let's examine the Law and the Prophets and find out if what the apostles are preaching is true. And if it is, we will believe it wholeheartedly! THAT would've been biblical advice!

And that's what we need to do. We cannot blindly accept advice as good advice - no matter how well-meaning it is, or even who it's from. The only advice we should accept as good advice is advice that lines up with scripture.

Just one more reason to read, study and memorize the Word!

Tomorrow's passage: Song of Solomon 1-3, Acts 6

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday, June 20 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Proverbs 27-29, Acts 5:1-21

Happy Monday Everyone!!
There were several verses that stuck out for me today so I’ve listed them all.
Psalm 27
15 A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
   of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
16 restraining her is like restraining the wind
   or grasping oil with the hand.
I interpret these verses on a couple of levels.  A wife who is constantly picking a fight is 1) Annoying 2) Slowly destructive 3) Closed to advice or behaviour change. When we got married 12 years ago, I was against the word “submit” in my wedding vows. I was bent on maintaining my own identity and doing things exactly as I had always done them. I must say, I’ve learned a lot in the last 12 years! I’ve learned that mindset is quarrelsome. It’s annoying, it’s destructive and obstinate. I’ve also learned that I didn’t want my husband to hold fast to those things either, so why was it ok for me to? I’ve learned peace and compromise. I’ve learned that in a marriage, we both submit to each other and that through the process, I actually gain more of myself. Ironic isn’t it?
 17 As iron sharpens iron,
   so one person sharpens another.
And isn’t this verse exactly about that? In a marriage, we sharpen each other through our submission and grace.

Psalm 28
9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction,
   even their prayers are detestable.
Communication with God is not just a one way street. We can pray and pray and pray, but if we turn away from his instruction, our prayers are detestable to God. This one sat with me for a long time. I imagine God just sitting there rejoicing in my every prayer – but I realize also how much he rejoices in my following of his instruction too. And that following is a tangible expression of my communication with God.
 13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
   but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
 14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
   but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
I think that confession comes with trembling before God. It’s a lot harder to harden our hearts when we have a spirit of confession, always seeking God’s mercy for our human-nature shortcomings.

Psalm 29
17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace;
   they will bring you the delights you desire.
As hard as it is to stay consistent and persistent with disciplining our kids, it really is the only way to have peace and delight in parenting. Fall of 2010 we took our kids to a hotel with a huge waterpark. The kids were 5 and 3 years old. We settled into our room, put on swimsuits and headed down to the waterpark. As we stood outside the doors, kids itching to run into the water, my husband stopped them, got down on his knees and look them both in the eyes and said: “If you run on the cement, we will ask you not to run one time, after that, we’re going straight back to our room. It is too dangerous for you to run on wet cement. Do you understand?” The kids nodded and said “yes”. They understood, Dad was serious. We were there for 3 days, and didn’t have to ask the kids once to not run. We had the most wonderful weekend and we DELIGHTED in our children. All of the discipline and consistency leading up to this vacation had paid off in a weekend of fun and enjoyment of our little family.
Praying a day of blessings on all of you!
Tomorrow's passage: Proverbs 30-31, Acts 5:22-42

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday, June 19th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Proverbs 25-26, Acts 4:23-37

Happy Father's Day everyone! I hope today is a special one for you and you spend it with the ones you love.

I want to focus on this passage in Acts today....

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Acts 4:32-33

The church was in its honeymoon state, so to speak. This was a brand new church, preaching a brand new gospel, this was the New Testament - and man, were they effective!! There are already 15,000-20,000 new converts and we're only a couple chapters into the book of Acts. Now that's effective. That's remarkable. What made the new church so effective and remarkable? Our passage tells us.

In his sermon God's Passion for a Pure Church, John MacArthur says....

This church was remarkable because of its unity. It was remarkable because of its devotion to preach the gospel. It was remarkable because it was being showered with God's power and grace. And it was remarkable because everybody looked at everything they had and saw it as belonging to whoever needed it more than they did. That is a church the way God wants a church to be. We look at the church today and we wonder if there's much resemblance. Churches struggle with a lack of unity. They equivocate on the powerful straight‑forward proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and all that is involved in gospel preaching. They seem to demonstrate very little of an abundant grace being poured out upon them and they know little or almost nothing about what it means to make sacrifices or what it means to hold everything that you hold as a stewardship not really owning any of it....

in verse 32 he says, and this is a marvelous statement, "Not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own." That is the proper perspective on all material possessions. On anything you own, any money that you possess, anything in the bank, anything in savings, any stocks, bonds, properties, it's not yours. You simply hold it for the cause of the Kingdom to be released at the prompting of the Spirit of God to accomplish spiritual [goals]. God would have us have the same attitude....

let us be reminded that the church which the Lord designed is a church that is pure and holy, a church that is united in love and righteousness, a church that is committed to preaching the pure and unadulterated gospel of the resurrection, a church that is seeing and experiencing the abundance of grace poured out by God, a church where people lovingly, sacrificially and generously share everything they have for the work of the Kingdom and the needs of others. (emphasis mine)

I want to be a part of that kind of Church!

Tomorrow's passage: Proverbs 27-29, Acts 5:1-21

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday, June 18th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Proverbs 22-24; Acts 4:1-22

Today's post is going to be a little like our Proverbs reading has been - a little of this and a little of that, all over the place - hope you can follow and that it's still meaningful to you!

"Train a child in the way he should go" Proverbs 22:6a
It seems like this verse is saying to train a child to follow Christ. And obviously, we should do that too. But what it actually means, according to my Life Application Bible (and I've heard the same from other sources before) is to train a child "according to the child's way". In other words, train them, taking into consideration their natural bent, their personality, their tendencies. We can't train all of our children exactly the same way and expect the same result. We only wish it would be that easy, right? Of course, in order to actually do that, we need to really get to know our children - not just our assumptions about them, not just the way we knew them a year ago (people change, even our kids!), but how they are now and what they need now. This is a continuous, ongoing, time-consuming process - but one that is vital to both a great relationship with our kids, and to the effectiveness of our training.

Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. Proverbs 23:31-33
Wine looks beautiful as it sparkles in the wine glass. But that beauty hides many deadly results that can come from indulging too much. Obviously one glass during a special dinner is not wrong in and of itself (though motive is always to be considered in everything we do). But oh, the danger and heartache that can result from drunkenness! Even just a one time episode of it can result in a lifetime of pain and consequences. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has a great article discussing this here.

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. Proverbs 25:34
Convicting enough on it's own. But Josh Harris' version in his sermon Self-Control in a Wired World is even more convicting, at least to me....
“A little web surfing, a little Facebook, a little folding of the hands around the smart phone and spiritual poverty will come upon you like a robber.”
Yeah, I know, enough said.

Our Acts passage is just inspiring. Peter and John are filled with courage by the Holy Spirit and preach fearlessly in front of the rulers and elders, knowing clearly the risks in doing so, charging them with the death of Jesus Christ and boldly pronouncing His resurrection.

And the key thing is: they cannot refute this claim. They know it to be true. They cannot produce a dead body. And yet still they do not believe.

People sometimes say that they are simply not intellectually convinced that the Gospel is true. However, that is often not the underlying issue. (It may be in some cases, but careful study can solve that dilemma). Sometimes, for whatever reason, people simply do not want to believe. The rulers and elders here had all the evidence they needed. And they still chose to disbelieve.

We are not responsible for what people do with the message, but we are responsible to be a testimony, to be a witness, to be ready and willing to speak the truth fearlessly when called to do so.

Tomorrow's passage: Proverbs 25-26, Acts 4:23-37

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday, June 17 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Proverbs 19-21; Acts 3.

Well, it seems I'm having the same struggle with Proverbs some others here have talked about ~ there's just too much wisdom to cover in one post!  I bet you could do a year-long, in-depth study of the book and still not grasp everything it contains! So today's chapters are no exceptions, but one verse did really stand out.

I always notice the quarrelsome and nagging wife verses, of course, because they specifically advise me in my role as a wife, but this time I also noticed a verse that very closely resembles the "a wife of noble character who can find?" question that kicks off the Proverbs 31 Lady passage at the end of the book.  Only this verse refers to men:

Many a man claims to have unfailing love,
but a faithful man who can find? (20:6)

Obviously, this verse could ~ and probably was intended to ~ apply to either sex, but it's certainly one that I want to keep in mind for when my daughters start dating and thinking about marriage!!  ;)  (which isn't going to be AT LEAST another 20 years if their dad can help it!)  In any case, it seems faithful men are equally as rare as women of noble character, and as such, both are highly valued.

Anyway, movin' right along to Acts...

I love how Peter carries on Jesus' fine tradition of performing miracles as a method of opening up a platform for discussing spiritual truths. Here, he and John encounter a crippled beggar sitting at a temple gate.  This man had been crippled from birth and year after year, someone had carried him to the temple to beg because he couldn't earn a living.  His eyes are downcast.  All day long, he calls out for money and possibly food, but he never actually looks at people.  Maybe he's tired of seeing people try to avoid his gaze or pretend they haven't heard him.  I imagine he's ashamed, but helpless.

I think it's so beautiful that the apostles stop directly in front of him and Peter tells him to look up, to look AT them.  This gives the beggar hope and he looks expectantly up into Peter's face only to hear these men have no money.  I imagine the beggar's gaze drops and his heart sinks as he hears those words.  I imagine he begins to close off his mind again, to shut out the unpleasantness of his situation, but just before he stops listening altogether, he hears the words, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, WALK."  I bet it didn't even register at first, but suddenly he feels Peter's hand on his arm, pulling him to his feet.  What if this is the first physical touch from a non-family member this man has felt since his birth??  And then, even more amazing, it actually WORKS to pull him to his feet, and then there is just no stopping this man!  We don't know how old he was, but there was obviously a good many years of running, jumping, and dancing stored up that began to overflow!!

And then, just like Jesus, Peter addresses the astonished, amazed masses there at the temple and gets the opportunity to tell them all about Jesus and His Gospel message.  It'll get them into trouble, as we'll see in the next chapter, but even in the hardship that follows, EVERY opportunity to spread the Word is exploited to its full potential.

Only a few chapters ago, Peter was the man we can all identify with, humiliated by his failures, but here he begins to become the bold, faithful "fisher of men" we all want to be.

How is our bait and tackle today ~ is it ready and well-used, or a little rusty and forgotten?  I hope this time in Acts will refresh us and inspire us to get into the habit of taking every opportunity to use our rods and reels!

Tomorrow's passages: Proverbs 22-24; Acts 4:1-22.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday, June 16 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Proverbs 16-18; Acts 2:22-47.

Wow, I don't know about anyone else, but I find Proverbs hard to read in bigger chunks.  Almost each verse seems to need to be re-read and pondered.  It takes me so long!  But there are some excellent and applicable nuggets in the Proverbs passages each day.  There were quite a few that stood out to me, but this one more than the others:

Proverbs 17:1 - Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. 

To me, this speaks to how much more important are our relationships and our spiritual health than our possessions or our physical beings.  You can have the most beautiful meal, or home, or car, or furnishings (or all of the above), but it is impossible to be satisfied by these things, or even enjoy them, if we are at odds with the people around us or even just personally feeling distressed or worried or upset about something, or holding onto a grudge and not forgiving someone.

I don't know if any of you have read or remember "The Mark of the Lion" series from the mid-90's by Francine Rivers.  The stories take place about 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  I'm re-reading them right now and I can't put them down.  Through the characters and their stories, she tells the story of salvation and weaves it into the story in such a way that it is clear and unmistakable, and yet not cheesy or preachy.  She talks about the emptiness and futility of spending one's life amassing wealth and possessions.  She also talks about all the sinful attitudes, temptations and immorality in Rome and Ephesus in those days that are still going on in our society today.  Things such as abortion, homosexuality, adultery, promiscuity and others are all woven into the story in order to present a Christian viewpoint on them that is completely applicable in today's society.  If you're looking for something good to read on your next camping trip or something, I recommend them!  Just a little warning, though... be prepared to have your toes stepped on a little with regards to serving with joy, sharing the Good News with others, following God's will, turning away from temptation, or watering down the gospel to make it more palatable.

Anyway, moving along to Acts, we come to Peter's sermon.  Isn't it unbelievable that 3,000 people became Christians after hearing him speak?  Of course, their hearts had to be prepared and their eyes and ears opened by God in order for this to happen, but still... how incredible!

Peter's Sermon at Pentacost, part of a study by Bob Deffinbaugh, has the following to say:

First, let us take note of the serious consequences of rejecting Jesus as Lord and Christ. Those whom Peter addressed were Jews,13 many of whom were devout Jews,14 but they had also joined with those who called for the crucifixion of Jesus.15 Peter warned these Jews that the day of God’s wrath was near and that they would be the objects of that wrath. Just as Joel spoke of Gentiles enduring the wrath of God (chapter 3), so Peter warned his Jewish audience about this same wrath. God does not show partiality. Those who reject Jesus as the Messiah, Lord, and Christ will suffer divine wrath, a wrath that is drawing near.
Some today seem to think that one’s decision about who Jesus is and what He has done is a rather academic matter, with few implications. Not so! The day of the Lord is a day of restoration for Israel, and of blessing for those who have trusted in Jesus as Messiah. But the “day of the Lord” is a day of wrath for all who have rejected Him as Messiah. Determining who Jesus is and whether you will submit to Him, and receive His salvation, is the most important decision you will ever make. Do not take this matter lightly. And since the “day of the Lord” is near, don’t delay. Trust in Jesus as the One who died in your place, bearing the penalty for your sins, and you will experience the forgiveness of your sins and the blessed hope of eternity in His presence.

Second, for those who want only a serendipity gospel of happy thoughts and of a God who is too kind to condemn any, take a good look at our text again. The God who offers men forgiveness for their sins and an eternity of bliss in His presence is also the God who takes the rejection of His blessed Son seriously. The gospel is indeed good news to those who accept it, but it is bad news to those who reject it. Like it or not, divine judgment is a prominent theme in the Bible, and one we dare not ignore.

When Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32, he includes both the good news and the bad news. Let us not miss the point at which Peter ends his citation from Joel:
“‘And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Acts 2:21).
All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the good news. So what hinders you from doing so? Call upon Him who is both Lord and Christ; call upon Him who died in your place and who was raised from the dead for salvation. If you do, you will be saved.

Third, I have to smile as I read Acts 2 and Peter’s sermon because I don’t believe that Peter saw the full implications of this text in Joel. Joel was a Jewish book, written to Jews, and particularly to Jews living in or near Jerusalem. Thus it was most appropriate for those gathered at Pentecost, to whom Peter preached. But Peter had not yet been enlightened concerning the extent to which God would save Gentiles, or on what basis. That will come in Acts chapters 10 and 11. It would be further clarified in Acts 15. Peter preached a text from a Jewish book (Joel) to a Jewish audience, warning them of impending judgment and offering them salvation in the name of Jesus. Little did he know or see that this same text from Joel 2 would later be cited by Paul:
11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:11-13, emphasis mine).
How often our knowledge of God’s Word is only partial. How often God’s plans and purposes exceed our own thoughts.

When Joel promised that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on “all people” (Acts 2:17; citing Joel 2:28), he meant “all people,” and not just Jewish people. When he wrote that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” he meant everyone, and not just Jews. The warning of judgment and the promise of salvation that Peter proclaimed to the Jews we now have proclaimed to us (Gentiles), because of the rejection of the Jews (Romans 11:11-12, 30-32). 

Have a wonderful Thursday and a wonderful weekend!  

Tomorrow's passage:  Proverbs 19-21; Acts 3.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday, June 15 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Proverbs 13-15, Acts 2:1-21

I come from a non-charismatic church tradition.  We believe in the Holy Spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit, but I have not once seen or heard someone speak in tongues or a true instantaneous healing.  We pray a lot to the Father and the Son, but the Holy Spirit often gets second chair in our prayers and tradition.

That's sad.

The days of Christ, from his birth to his death and resurrection, has set the world upon it's ear.  It was the start of a new thing, a new covenant between God and man, a time of true peace.  And with Acts 2 we have another new chapter of the same book.  The Holy Spirit was given in small doses to a world gone mad before this, so we had an inkling, a taste of what was to come.  The people who had been gifted with the Holy Spirit before Pentecost were strange, different and weird by the worlds standards.  They were prophets, priests and kings who spoke the words of God for repentance.

What happened here with the gathered believers after Christs ascension is no different.  These men (and probably women) were used by the Holy Spirit to bring God's children to repentance, to bring them back to God, back in fellowship with Him.  It's been God's plan all along.  The reason for Christ and the cross, the reason for the bible.  Not for man's glory or entertainment, but rather to bring people back to Him.  It seems when the Holy Spirit 'hits' it's notable.  It was here that day and in the sprinklings back in the Old Testament.  The Holy Spirit causes people to do odd things.  And it makes people notice.

I think in my experience, we shy away from the Holy Spirit because we cannot contain Him.  We are afraid if we call on Him, or He falls on us, we will do strange and odd things.  That's very sad.  There is a reason Christ called Him the comforter.  It is a comfort, first, to be reconciled to God.  It is a comfort to be taught a better way.  It is a comfort to know the scriptures better and deeper.  It is a comfort to have a presence about us 24/7.  I often equate the Holy Spirit with such things as what happened at Pentecost, but I often forget about the still, small voice, the gentleman that He is too.

The prophecy of Joel that Peter quoted is for all people for all time, but the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit and the gifts he gives is to bring the lost to repentance.  Time is of the essence.  We cannot delay our witness.  And the Holy Spirit gives power and boldness to share that witness.  I've experienced that myself.  All we need do is ask.

Father God, forgive us for the part of you that we ignore and don't give our due to.  Help us to live lives worthy of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.  Give us that power and that boldness that we see in Peter and the disciples to bring others to repentance and belief in You.  Thank you for the gift of your spirit.  Amen.    

 Tomorrow's passage: Proverbs 16-18, Acts 2:22-47