Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday, July 31st

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 116-118, 1 Thessalonians 4

One main thing jumped out at me in both passages today, but one quick peak at Psalm 116:8-9 For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

I didn't look up this verse at all, to know exactly what the original text said - but to me this is a reminder that our eternal life with the Lord does not start with death, it starts the moment we receive Christ as our Saviour and our Lord. And while we still walk this earth, we will walk it in the power of Him who saved us, in the strength of Him who died and rose again. We will live for Him, guided by Him, in order to glorify His name in the land of the living.

Which actually relates to my main thoughts quite well.

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

1 Thessalonians 4:13, 16, 17 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope...For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Our lives are precious to God. And He knows the moment of our physical death. But our physical death is not the end. Not for the Christian. And so, though we grieve at the death of a loved one, we do not grieve without hope. We know that we will see them again. We KNOW. And we cling to that truth.

To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. When our nephew Baret was so ill in a coma and we did not know whether he would live or die, the girls asked about Baret and were sad for him, wondering if he was scared. I told them that he was in a coma which was kind of like sleeping and that for Baret, the outcome was going to be good either way. Either he would wake up to see his mom and dad again, or he would wake up to see Jesus. He would be happy either way. Of course, we wanted him to wake up here, for our sake. And God performed a miracle, and Baret did wake up here and we praise Him for that.

When Christians do die, it is often referred to as sleep in the Bible. A very apt description really, because our physical bodies are "sleeping", our spiritual self is with Christ, our physical self is sleeping, waiting for Christ to return and resurrect our physical bodies to be reunited with our spiritual souls.

Once we become Christians, we are always in Christ. We live in Christ, we die in Christ, we spiritually live in Christ while our physical bodies sleep in Christ, we rise with Christ and we will live forever with Christ. When Christ returns, those who have already died will rise first, and then those who are still alive at the time of Christ's return will be caught up together with them as He takes us up to heaven.

John MacArthur speaks on this passage beautifully in What Happens To Christians Who Die Part 1 and Part 2.
Through the years I've had funerals, continue to have funerals of unbelieving people or funerals of believing people where unbelievers are in the family and the hopelessness is terrifying. The terrible sense of finality, no reunion, no future, nevermore the touch of the hand, the sound of the voice, never again, finality. To be so consumed in life with a person and then have the curtain drop so totally absolutely and finally is a cause for deep despair. The greater the love the greater the pain and it is the pain of hopelessness.

To grieve without hope would be devastating.

But, as Christians, we DO have hope, in fact we have confident assurance....

I don't want your grief to be that dead-end grief, that grief that comes to people because there's no contemplation of reunion. I don't want you to think that Christians ever say a final goodbye because they don't. That's a great thought, isn't it? You never say goodbye to a believer for the last time. There will always be another time....

Reunion is here, beloved, it is. It is also in the very terminology of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 1 when it's called "our gathering together to Him." As we are brought to Him we are gathered together to each other. There will be reunion. There will be a gathering together. And he says you don't need to fear and you don't need to grieve about it like people who are looking at a dead end.

We need to get that somehow deeply embedded in our hearts, don't we? That is our confident hope. Partings here are just brief. (emphasis mine)

We believe Jesus paid the penalty for our sin with His death on the cross. We believe in the power of His resurrection, which means we believe in His power to resurrect us when He returns. And God has revealed that there will be a reunion, a gathering together where the dead in Christ shall rise first, and then those who are still alive will join them to meet the Lord and be with Him forever.

And then we will finally, truly, be home. As Christians, our souls yearn for heaven. And that yearning only grows the more precious family and friends go home before us. I already have my dad and two babies waiting for me, not to mention grandparents and other extended family. While we remain here on earth we will be homesick, but we do not grieve without hope. We do grieve, but with the confident hope of a future reunion. And what a precious hope that is!

Homesick by Mercy Me

You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times
And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you
But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry
Is how long must I wait to be with you

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord, cause I don't understand your ways
The reason why, I wonder if I'll ever know
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same
Cause I'm still here so far away from home

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

In Christ, there are no goodbyes
And in Christ, there is no end
So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have
To see you again
To see you again

And I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 119:1-88, 1 Thessalonians 5

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, July 30th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 113-115; 1 Thessalonians 3

The verses in 1 Thessalonians that jumped out at me were...
Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13

And of course, Apple has an app for that MacArthur has a sermon for that. I highly recommend you read it, or listen to it, in it's entirety. I'm going to post it in pieces for you here (all emphasis mine)

Paul, when praying for the Thessalonians, was praying that their faith would be strengthened (that's why he wanted to come, to supply what was lacking in their faith), that their love would increase, that their hearts would be steadfast to resist temptation due to a purifying hope.


Faith is the ability to trust the truth...Now if I'm going to trust the truth, I have to...know the truth. And to bring someone's faith to perfection, completeness, wholeness, is not a mystical call, it's not a mystical thing. It doesn't involve calling people to a higher trust. It isn't believe harder...I've heard people say need to believe harder, you're not believing hard enough. You have to believe more. You need to...believe with more strength....What do you mean believe harder? I either believe or I don't believe. I can't believe harder. Yet you hear that.

No. That's not the idea. If I'm going to perfect your faith and if faith is trusting in the truth, then I need to expand your comprehension of....the truth. And as I expand your comprehension of the truth, your faith is enlarged because now you can live your life in trust on a larger foundation of truth......

If we are to live by faith and faith means believing God, the more I know about God the more I believe, right? The more I believe the more I have capacity to live on that belief....

that's the only way that I can enlarge your faith is to enlarge what you can believe in, not the degree to which you can believe. You either believe or you don't believe. And when the man said, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief," he wasn't saying, "Help me believe harder," he was saying, "Help me know what I don't know, help me know more so I can believe. I believe what I know but I can't believe what I don't know, so give me the rest." That's why the mandate of the church is to feed the Word of God to people so you enlarge the foundation of their faith. Greater and greater trust in the Lord is dependent on greater and greater understanding of who he is. His Word.

And then what happens is as you get this larger and larger base of truth, God begins to show you in your life that truth at work. And as you combine the biblical confidence with the personal experience of God working through that truth, then your faith really grows. For example, the Bible says, "God answers prayer." I believe it. Add to that the fact that I prayed and God answered it and I really believe it, right? So my experience of God at work in my life, consistent with the revelation of God as a foundation is what makes my faith grow. Faith lays hold of the truth of God, of Christ and builds its life on it.

So Paul wanted to perfect their faith with the Word of God. That's why he wants to be there....

How do I know if my faith is growing? Let me give you a little list of things, just quickly. Number one, my knowledge of the Word of God is knowledge of the Word of God is growing and if it is, my faith is growing. Two, I find a greater confidence in God. Three, I have a higher trust in His sovereignty. Four, there is a definite increase in obedience. As I apprehend more truth and trust more truth, I live more truth...that's obedience. Here's another one, I find joy in my trials. What does that mean? That means I have a large faith. Why? See, I know that my trial produces perfection. Since I trust that truth, I have the faith to go through that trial joyously, right? See, as I know the truth and trust the truth, I find a growing faith. Those are the things that indicate your faith is growing. You know more of the Word. You have a greater confidence in God. You trust in His sovereignty. There's an increase in obedience. You have joy in your trials....

Love then becomes the evidence of growing faith. The more I trust God, the more God is the object of my life, the more I walk by faith and not by sight, the more I am then demonstrating my love for God, the more I am demonstrating love for God, the more that love overflows to those around me. It all begins with truth. Faith embraces that truth. It moves the limits of that truth and it embraces that truth and then as I know more about God my Savior, more about Jesus my Lord, as I trust Him more and as I love Him more, the spill over of that extends to others. As I grow in my faith I learn to trust God more perfectly. I learn to love Him more perfectly. And my heart moves toward Him. And as my love for God grows, my love for everybody else grows too. I become rooted and grounded in love. I experience its breath and length and height and depth and the very love of Christ that passes knowledge fills me with the fullness of God by which I love others....

You start with truth, it moves to faith, it moves to love, it moves to hope. If your foundation of truth is broad and your faith is great and your love is increasing and abounding... in order that the Lord may establish your hearts.....he wants to establish your hearts because it's the heart that is the seat of motive, purpose, desire, thought. Everything comes out of the heart. It's not what goes in a man that defiles him, it's what comes out of him, out of his heart. And the reason the Lord wants you to have a strong foundation of faith and love is so you have a firm, strong, immovable, resolute heart that can stand against that you're unblamable in holiness...

If I really know some day I'm going to face God and the day I'm going to face God is going to be the day of the coming of Jesus when He comes to reward His people...if there's coming a time when Jesus returns for us to take us to himself, and at that time we will be called to the judgment seat of Christ, according to 2 Corinthians 5, and there at the judgment seat of Christ our works will be scrutinized by the judge, then if I know that's coming that ought to motivate me now, right? So that becomes a purifying hope....

The goal is not lowered because of our inability.

Here's a neat thing MacArthur points out. Is Paul's prayer answered? He prayed for their faith and love to increase, right? Well, a few months later he wrote them again, and this is what he said....

2 Thessalonians 1:3
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

Isn't that awesome?!

I'd like to end with MacArthur's prayer from his sermon, and this is my prayer for you and I, for all participants and readers of this blog....

Our dear Father, indeed we do pray for this [group of believers] even as Paul prayed, that they may complete what is lacking in their faith, that they may increase and abound in love for one another, that they may have a purifying hope, anticipating that they shall stand before God at the coming of the Lord Jesus and along with all the saints may they long to be unblamable in holiness at that event. Father, this I pray knowing full well that the power resides with You, thanking You for the model of the Apostle Paul, a testimony of those to whom he ministered. And, Father, believing that even as You granted the answer to his prayer, even enlarging the faith of those believers, enlarging their love and purifying them through hope, that You would do the same for us. And we'll thank You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 116-118, 1 Thessalonians 4

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday, July 29 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 106; Psalm 111-112 ; 1 Thessalonians 2.

Happy Friday, all!

I'm going to focus strictly on Psalm 106 today.  As I read through it a couple of times, I found myself longing for a shepherd who would lead his flock in a prayer like this ~ a prayer of repentance and praise for God's loving mercy and restoring grace.
We need it in our nations. More importantly, we need it in our homes and churches.

I couldn't help but think about the U.S. presidents of the past who occasionally called for a "national day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer."  Some of their proclamations read very similarly to this Psalm, cataloguing sins like pride and forsaking God to pursue selfish desires.  They beg God for forgiveness and restoration, recalling His goodness and blessing in the past and petitioning for His favour to be restored once more.

While our calendars may still include a National Day of Prayer and some leaders still acknowledge the value of this annual observance, we don't see the reverence for the supremacy of God, the expression of sorrow over sin, the recognition that repentance is required for restoration, or the desire for God to once again be central to our homes, churches and governments anymore.

I think now, more than ever, we need to pray for our government officials.  I remember reading somewhere, sometime (don't remember either, of course!) the reminder that we not only need to pray for our leaders to be wise and just, but we need to intercede for them and pray they will come to a saving knowledge of God.  We may beg and plead for it with tears in our eyes when we pray for family members or friends, but I'll confess, I rarely even think about it when I pray for our elected and appointed officials.  Shoot, I have to confess I rarely pray for them at all, let alone begging for their salvation.

But truly, if we want to be led by God-fearing, publicly-elected leaders, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, opening their eyes to their desperate need for a Saviour.  Let's face it, the likelihood of a Christian being elected is slim for several reasons, but the potential for an elected official to come to Christ is limitless!  As is the power of prayer.

In a way, I feel like I've just gone off on a serious tangent, but at the same time... wouldn't you love to hear Psalm 106 paraphrased and proclaimed from Parliament Hill or the Oval Office by our national leaders?

Then WE need to pray.

Tomorrow's passages: Psalm 113-115; 1 Thessalonians 3

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday, July 28 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 104-105; 1 Thessalonians 1.

Psalm 104 is another praising psalm, this time concentrating on marveling at God's creation.  Nature shows us SO MANY aspects of God's character - everything from His awesome majesty shown in some small part by incredible mountain ranges, His beauty and glory is glimpsed in the gorgeous colours of the sunset, His unchanging character in the solidity of the earth under our feet and the constancy of rivers and streams flowing toward larger bodies of water, His range of emotion by the changeability of the sea, and yet even though the seas can go from calm as glass to raging and everything in between, they are still always the seas.  Water covers a vast portion of the earth because every living thing needs it to survive.  The earth rotates as it circles the sun so that every part of the earth benefits from it's warmth and light.  His creation is so intricate and so interdependent and so unbelievably complex, and yet so simply beautiful.  His provision for all living creatures is shown everywhere, all around us all the time.  There is an appropriate home or habitat and sustenance for all his creatures, as varied as they are.

Psalm 104:27-28 ~ "These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things."

After reading this, I cannot possibly believe that our needs will not be provided for by the God who makes sure that all of creation is given their food at the proper time and satisfied with good things.  Sometimes I wish that more of my wants were provided for, but I take great comfort in knowing that I will have what I need, even if I didn't know it was what I needed.  Does that make sense?

One verse stood out for me in particular from our 1 Thessalonians chapter today.  Verse 3 says "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."  (emphasis mine)  

Isn't that awesome?

Our faith is demonstrated by what we do,
what we do is inspired by our love for God and each other,
and we have the stick-to-it-iveness to keep on keeping on because we have hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I love this verse.  It might be my new favourite verse.

Happy Thursday, all!  Enjoy your long weekend.

 Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 106, 111, 112; 1 Thessalonians 2.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday, July 27 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 99-100, 102, Acts 17:16-34

It is good to praise the Lord.  I find it interesting that in the beginning of Psalm 99 David says that both the earth and the nations tremble or shake.  I know it's good and healthy that we, in our churches, have a 'friendly' relationship emphasis with the Lord, but I think we often lose sight of the magnitude of the Lord, His holiness, His purity, His justice, His strength.  I could go on, but you know what I mean.  God used many things to teach them about His holiness.  They could only go into the holy of holies once a year and that was one person and that was only after that person had been cleansed and sacrifices given for him.  If he was not properly prepared, adorned and in the right mind, God would strike him dead.  Some guy later on in the Old Testament reached out to steady the ark of the covenant and God struck him dead.  His intentions were good, but this man was unholy, not prepared to touch the presence of a Holy God.  We cannot begin to understand or comprehend who God is.  We see and know an inkling.  I think that's why David's psalms are filled with God's praises.  Because we cannot comprehend all we can do is praise.

Praising God is good for us too.  I've found that praising God and focusing on God helps to fight temptation.  It helps to run off those thoughts that irritatingly enter the brain and just. won't. leave.  Praising God brings healing in the midst of hurt and pain.  Praising God helps to bring perspective amid chaos and confusion.  Praising God shuts up satan and his lies.  And praising God brings us more quickly and deeper into the presence of God in our prayer time.  Praising God brings a soothing balm to the soul.

We praise God because He is worth it.  Oh He is so worth it.  But we praise God because we need it.  We need to praise God more than we need to ask Him for things.  Maybe that's why praise should, nay, needs to come first in our prayer time.  Praise brings perspective and focus.

Praise always seemed weak in other peoples prayers.  Not that they were weak, it just didn't seem like a 'good' prayer.  Now I know that praise can be more powerful than a wordy, heady prayer.  Sometimes praise is all we need.  Maybe that's why David is often seen praising the Lord at the beginning and the end of his most heart wrenching psalms.  There is great power and strength to be derived from praise.

Know this: there is no mistake in praising the Lord.  One cannot go wrong in praise.  It puts the Lord where He belongs and puts us where we belong.  Creator to creation, Savior to sinner, Father to child, Husband to bride.

Father God we lift You up!  We bless Your name!  You are most holy, most beautiful and awesome God.  We praise You.  We love You.  You are God.  We give ourselves to You.  Thank You for Your presence and Your salvation.  Amen.

 Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 104-105 - 1 Thessalonians 1

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday, July 26th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 96-98, Acts 17:1-15

Our Psalms were, once again, filled with singing and shouts of praise to God, proclaiming many of His amazing attributes.

Two things jumped out at me in our Acts reading today.

Acts 17:6b These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here (NIV)
These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also (ESV)
These men who have upset the world have come here also (NASB)

Isn't that an amazing thing to have said about you? Paul and Silas turned the world upside down!

But what's even more amazing?

In the words of John MacArthur in his sermon Men Who Turned the World Upside Down,
But if you think that's amazing, get this. They've only been to one town, Philippi in Europe, and already through the events of a few days in one town; the world is convinced these men are turning it upside down. And the rumor has drifted all the way to Thessalonica, which is over a hundred miles away. When you turn the world upside down in your lifetime, that's gonzo. When the world says, "You're turning it upside down," and you've been around a few weeks, that's really gonzo. (emphasis mine)

It reminds me of a quote, but I have no idea who said it first...
Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, the devil shudders and says "Oh crap, she's up!"

Some Christians live their whole lives without the world even noticing. Paul and Silas made so much of an impact, the world didn't just take notice. The world was turned upside, by it's own admission!

Now the world went haywire at the fall, there's no question about that, it slipped off its spiritual axis when Adam sinned. And it was a twofold problem, Adam not only fell and became cursed but the globe went with him. So, that earth itself is cursed, there's a cursed earth and in that cursed earth lives a cursed man. And consequently, it's very interesting that man is rather comfortable in his sinning, isn't he? And the reason for that is simply this, you put a cursed man in a cursed system and he's gonna get along with his system, pretty well. It's when you apply righteousness to that cursed system that you make waves. And that's why the truth of God, throughout all history, has tended to flip man's world. (Men Who Turned the World Upside Down Part 2, emphasis mine)

MacArthur states that Paul & Silas turned the world upside right due to five things. First of all courage.
Simple, biblical definition of courage; courage equals confidence in God, that's courage.
You can have this courage by trusting God, confessing sin, and thanking Him in advance.

Secondly content. All the courage in the world doesn't help much if your content is off. You must know the Word of God - study it, like the Bereans mentioned in vs 10-15 (which is the second thing that struck me, which has blended in nicely with this!). They didn't just take Paul at his word. They examined the scriptures to see if what Paul said lined up with God's Word. In order to truly know the Word we need to confess sin (if we have sin in our lives it will cloud our learning), we need to study the Word, we need to make it applicable and we need to share it.

The third thing is converts - because, obviously, you're multiplying the waves!

And if you're multiplying waves, you're going to get conflict, the fourth thing. But God uses conflict (persecution) to result in joy and productivity.

And the last thing that made Paul & Silas turn the world upside down was concern. But probably not the concern you first thought of when you read that. What did you think when you read that? Concern for the lost? Well, it's definitely true that we should be concerned for the lost, absolutely. But it's actually concern, even passion, for the glory of God, for the holiness of God. And that concern is what drove Paul and Silas to turn the world upside down.

Do you and I have that same passion?

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 99-100, 102, Acts 17:16-34

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday, July 25 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Psalm 93-95, Philippians 4

Happy Monday Y'all! I don't have a lot to say today, I was just touched by the encouragement God offers us in His Word. Let's face it, life here on earth is hard. Today, I don't have an opinion to offer on the readings, I just wanted to share some of the passages that really encouraged my today.

Psalm 94:18-19
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
   your love, O LORD, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
   your consolation brought joy to my soul.

Psalm 95:1-2
 1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
   let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
   and extol him with music and song.

Psalm 95:6-7
 6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
   let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   the flock under his care.

Philippians 4:4-9
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

How often we forget that the Lord God who made us, longs for us to find our joy and peace in Him. He has give us His Word, as tangible evidence of this. Today God reminded me where to go first when I am discouraged, lonely and lost.
Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 96-98, Acts 17:1-15

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday, July 24th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 89 - Psalm 92 - Philippians 3

Sorry this is so late today.

Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:16

We need to live out what we know to be right.

Works do not save us, we know that. It would be impossible for us to work our way to heaven because perfection is what is required, and we are all far from perfect.

No, we are saved by God's grace alone. We are saved by faith that He enables us to have. We are saved by our belief that God sent His only Son, the only Perfect One who ever walked this earth, to die in our place, who rose again victorious over death, and by our decision to invite Him into our lives as our Saviour and as our Lord. None of that is works. None of that is done by our power, only His.

So what are works? Works are evidence of our faith. Works are our faith in action. What we do and how we act reveal what we really believe.

From my Life Application Bible....
Christian maturity involves acting on the guidance that you have already received. We can always make excuses that we still have so much to learn. The instruction for us is to live up to what we already know and live out what we have already learned. We do not have to be sidetracked by an unending search for truth.

We don't have to know everything before we start changing our lifestyle or behaviour. We must continually change as we continue to grow in knowledge and truth. As God reveals our sinful attitudes, thoughts or behaviours we must be willing to confess them to Him, and to truly repent which involves a turning away from those things which have been revealed to be sinful.

It is a continual process. We have never "arrived" as Christians. There is always more to learn and deeper ways to grow.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:12-14

God does not reveal things to us in order to have us wallow in guilt, fear or shame. He reveals things to us in order to restore our relationship with Him that He may be glorified. If we have been convicted of a sin that has been revealed to us, and we have confessed and repented of this sin - we need to do as the apostle Paul did - forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.

Paul spoke from experience here. He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen and gave approval of his death. He persecuted Christians with zeal. He was deceived. But when he became a Christian he did not give up one form of slavery only to become enslaved by shame. No, he focused instead on what God could do through him now as he pressed on toward the goal.

As long as we live on this earth we live in the tension of who we have been (or what we have done) and who we want to become. But our salvation did not depend on us, it depended on God. And the perfecting of our faith depends on God as well - and He will be faithful to complete it!

So press on, in light of what has been revealed to you, in pursuit of further truth, under the power of the Holy Spirit and see what God will do!

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 93-95, Philippians 4

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday, July 23-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 67 and 71; Philippians 2.
Scripture: Philippians 2: 14-16
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (NIV)

14-16Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing. (The Message)

Observation: We can choose to not take the easy way.

Application: It is so easy to complain. So easy. We can complain about the weather (it's too hot/it's too cold), we can complain about our homes (Why can't you clean up your socks?!/ How many times have I told you not to leave dirty dishes on the counter?!/ If only I had ____ in my house, then I'd be happy), we can complain about our spouse, our children, our job, our vehicle, our figures, our income, our lacks and our dislikes. It's so easy to compare, to want, to be unsatisfied. I think to be unsatisfied is the root of complaining.

Media feeds our desire to be unhappy with what we have and it is easy to conform to the ways of the world and to grumble and argue about what we don't have or how life is not fair. It's so easy to get sucked into conversations that are negative and bitter. We, as Christians, are called to rise above this. It is our example to be content and cheerful that draws others to God. When we act in a way that rejoices in the blessings that we have through Christ, it is so cross cultural and it makes people question what it is that you have that produces such a positive and attractive glow. It reminds me of this song by the Newsboys:

The course goes like this:
Make 'em wonder what you've got
Make 'em wish that they were not
On the outside looking bored
Let it shine before all men
Let'em see good works, and then
Let 'em glorify the Lord

When need to act in a way that makes people wonder what we have in our life that makes us act so different. When we go against what is easy (complaining!) and instead choose to "do everything without grumbling or complaining" we will shine and stand out. Let our "mouth tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge." (Psalm 71:15)

Prayer: Lord, You are sovereign over all things. Thank you for giving us the ability to choose to be lights in a dark world. We often struggle with contentment and it is so easy to complain. Remind us about the bountiful blessings that You pour out on us each day. Let our example shine for others to draw them to You. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 89 - Psalm 92 - Philippians 3

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday, July 22 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 33, 43, and 66; Philippians 1.

I love how today's readings totally have a theme:  JOY!

I need to figure out a way to keep track of the Psalms and for what circumstances or needs they would be appropriate.  I've said that for a long time (to myself, anyway!), but never done anything about it, yet again today I found myself thinking, "I need to remember this one when I'm frustrated and feeling hopeless that things will ever change."  I probably won't remember it next time I need it, but what great words of encouragement and comfort!  He is in control, HE delivers us, HE loves us without fail, HE provides and protects us... He is holy.  Tough not to feel uplifted after reading something like that!!

Psalm 43 carries on in a similar vein, only coming from a slightly different angle ~ the author here resolves to rejoice in God despite feeling discouraged and foresaken.  Apparently, in some Hebrew manuscripts, Psalm 42 and 43 are one Psalm ~ not sure how or why they necessarily got seperated, since it certainly makes sense that 43 is the continuation and conclusion of 42.

And then Psalm 66 is a call for corporate praise and rejoicing in God's might, provision, protection, and love.

In both Psalm 33 and 66, we see pretty clearly that believers are to offer praise to God individually, but also make a practice of doing it corporately.  "It is fitting for the upright to praise [God]," 33:1 opens with, and vv. 20-22 end in a word of corporate prayer and request for blessing.  Psalm 66 opens up with a resounding "Shout with joy to God, all the earth!" and continues to instruct "Come and see what God has done" (v. 5), "Praise our God, O peoples" (v. 8), Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me." (v. 16)

When is the last time you excitedly proclaimed what God has done for you in the presence of friends? In my experience, this almost NEVER happens. The people with whom I associate most are the ones I talk about this kind of thing the LEAST with. In my church experience, testimonies tend to bore us, missionary reports are uninteresting, and talk of spiritual things and experiencing God is downright foreign, except maybe in the context of Sunday school class or Bible study...  You know, situations and places where it's expected.

According to these Psalms, it's something we should ALWAYS expect, something we're excited about when others do it ~ something WE find ourselves continuously compelled to do!!  We should crave hearing how God is working in the lives of others so that we can praise Him TOGETHER.  I don't really want to know why this isn't the case.  I'm afraid the answer has to do with how little we really care about true Christianity and what it's supposed to look like in our daily lives.  Oh, how I hope I am working to be more open with my praise, even though it's tough to get over the discomfort of essentially giving a mini-testimony and the awkwardness with which it's received.  I hope my enthusiasm for God and His praiseworthiness will be catchy!

And then we begin Paul's JOY letter to the Philippians.  There is SO much to tackle even in just the first chapter, but I thought I'd share rather a few of the statements my Bible makes in the introduction to the book:

In contrast to happiness stands joy.  Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God's love and work in our lives ~ that he will be there no matter what!  Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ. (bold colour emphasis mine)

Philippians is a joyful book because it emphasizes the real joy of the Christian life.  The concept of rejoicing or joy appears 16 times in four chapters, and the pages radiate this positive message, culminating in the exhortation to "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!"  (4:4)

In a life dedicated to serving Christ, Paul had faced excruciating poverty, abundant wealth, and everything in between.  He even wrote this joyful letter from prison.  Whatever the circumstances, Paul had learned to be content, finding real joy as he focused all of his attention and energy on knowing Christ and obeying him.

The secret of Paul's joy is grounded in his relationship with Christ.  People today desperately want to be happy but are tossed and turned by daily successes, failures, and inconveniences.  Christians are to be joyful in every circumstance, even when things are ggoing badly, even when we feel like complaining, even when no one else is joyful.  Christ still reigns, and we still know him, so we can rejoice at all times. (all emphasis in original except where noted)

And by rejoicing in the presence of others and together with others, we will continue to fuel each other's enthusiasm for serving our wonderful Savior and Lord!

Tomorrow's passages: Psalm 67 and 71; Philippians 2

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday, July 21 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 1-2, Psalm 10, Acts 16:22-40.

Paul and Silas were severely flogged and thrown in prison for costing somebody money.  If you recall from yesterday's reading, they sent a spirit out of a slave girl which meant her owners couldn't charge people for her fortune-telling services any longer.  And yet, all this came together for the purposes of leading the jailer and his family to Christ!  I wonder... how many of us would be singing hymns?  Praying; yes.  In fact, I can tell you that my prayer would probably be "please get us out of here... please get us out of here... "  Maybe that's what Paul and Silas were praying for as well; it doesn't say.  Would I be asking for ways to minister during this experience?  Probably not.  I wish I could say yes, but I doubt it.  Would I be asking that God would use my circumstances to his honour and glory?  Maybe, but in my head I'd probably be thinking of ways my release would bring him honour and glory, not my captivity.  As we know, God released them by way of an earthquake, and consequently they were able to tell the jailer and his family the Good News.

I wondered why Paul would ask that the magistrates were to come themselves to escort them out of the jail.  The following excerpt from A Closer Look at Open and Closed Doors says the following:

 Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They had been deprived of their rights as citizens of Rome. The beating they received, and their imprisonment, were illegal. The magistrates were undoubtedly hoping that Paul and Silas would silently slip out of town, never to be seen again. But that was not going to happen. Paul is not just “standing up for his rights;” he is standing up for what is right, and for what is best for the gospel, and for the new church.
In the future, Roman officials might feel the freedom to abuse Roman citizens who were Christians. They could beat them, and then let them go, just as they had done to Paul and Silas. The end result would be detrimental to the spread of the gospel. No. They were wrong to mistreat Roman citizens. Now they must publicly acknowledge their wrongdoing by making a public apology. This would leave Paul and Silas (and others who were Roman citizens) the right to travel freely among the churches in the empire. It would protect the church in Philippi from governmental oppression. Paul would not accept “freedom at any price.” He insisted that the officials obey the laws they were also charged to enforce. He took his beating well, but he did not tolerate injustice. I suspect that word of Paul’s actions made its way to other cities, and this may have given those officials pause. If they treated Paul and Silas illegally, they would be held responsible. Let me say it again; Paul’s “rights” are not primary here, but what is right, especially for the advance of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.

Happy Thursday!  Enjoy your weekend.

Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 33, 43, 66, Philippians 1.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday, July 20 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is  2 Kings 24-25 - Acts 16:1-21

I shake my head in disgust at the 2 Kings passage for today.  It seems the Israelites are given a glimmer of hope, maybe 'getting it right' via Josiah's reign.  Yet, as we read at the end of chapter 23 the Lord will not relent.  And so we see that judgement poured out in chapters 24 and 25. 

God had been so patient, so careful to warn and so open to forgive, but the people didn't take it.  They continued to ignore God, ignore His gentle pleads to return.  I wonder if it's sort of like today.  People have been hearing that the end is near for so long that they ignore the warnings.  They begin to treat the warnings like a TV that's left on all the time.  It becomes background noise.  Unfortunately the warnings don't have the same weight they once had.  They are all too familiar and we have become comfortable in our sin.  We can hear foul language and see sinful behavior and it doesn't even make us flinch anymore.  Oh Father God forgive us! 

The people ignored God and so, in turn, He ignored them.  Vs. 3 of chapter 24 states that "Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done"  In all the distruction that happened to Jerusalem and Judah and the Temple, the most horrific, the most devastating is the removal of the presence of God.  To be without God, is to be in Hell. 

I often wondered why God allowed a leader like Josiah to come and bring his people back right before the end.  And I wonder if it's so that the people would remember what it means to be a child of God.  I wonder if it's because they were so far gone they had no idea, so for the Lord to judge them, they would have no standard, no reference on which to base the 'why?'  So He brought them back, under the leadership of Josiah, He let them see how they were supposed to be living so that they would know what it's like to be in the presence of God and to be without it. 

I cannot ignore the harkening cry this passage is for our nation today.  And I fear that like the people of Judah we too are set in a path that we cannot get off of, a path to destruction.  Trust me, I'm not a gloom and doom prophet, but I see it time and again in other nations that when a people ignore the One True God for far too long, God passes judgement. 

But there is hope, there is always hope, scripture tells us in 2 Chronicles 7:14 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  Oh this is my hearts desire, my deep prayer for our nation.  Nothing is too difficult for God, but it is the repentance of the people that will turn this nation around.

Pray with me that our nation may be bowing the knee in heart and mind to our Father God.  Pray for our leaders that they too would call Jesus Lord and serve Him in their offices.  Pray that our churches would be a place that The Truth is unashamedly proclaimed.  But mostly pray that it begins here, in me, in us.

Oh Father God, we bow before You, we are humbled before You.  We ask for Your forgiveness for our sins and the sins of this nation.  We turn, we repent and we ask for Your mercy, for Your grace.  You are God, You demand justice, we know that.  But Your son supplied that redemption and we claim that.  Stay Your hand, merciful Father, may we be at peace with You once again.  Please do not turn Your face from us.  Please do not take Your presence from us.  Please forgive us and heal our land.  Thank You.  Amen.    

Tomorrow's passage:   Psalm 1-2 - Psalm 10 - Acts 16:22-40

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday, July 19th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Kings 22-23, Galatians 6

First, a quick note on the verses that ALWAYS jump out at me when I read Galatians.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction, the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8
This one is pretty straight forward. Enough said.

OK, apparently this is going to be Part 2 of my post from Sunday on Hezekiah and trusting God. Only this time it's on Josiah and obeying God.

Compare these two verses in the Bible (emphasis mine)...
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 2 Kings 18:5

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did - with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 2 Kings 23:25

Both kings are praised for their relationship with God. Hezekiah was the greatest in trusting God - faith. Josiah was the greatest in following God's laws - obedience.

Josiah turned to the Lord with all his heart, soul and strength - just like it was commanded in Deuteronomy. He loved God. And his love was expressed through his obedience.

He became passionate about the laws God had given.
He became passionate about God's holiness.
He became passionate about God's glory.
He became passionate about the things God was passionate about.

But this passion did not just exist in Josiah on an emotional level. It existed on a practical level. When you read about all the idols, high places, mediums, spiritists, false priests, altars, etc that Josiah tore down, burned and got rid of - it's astounding!

First of all, it's astounding that it got that bad to begin with (child sacrifice?!)
Second, it's astounding that he took the time to be so thorough.

We need to be thorough. We need to ask God to show us where we are weak. To show us where we are living in disobedience to His Word. No sin is too big for God to forgive. But no sin is too small for us to take lightly. Not even a hint, like Jody said yesterday!

Passion resulting in thorough action.

Anybody else's toes hurting a bit?

I love to worship God through music. It moves me, emotionally and spiritually. I often cannot sing through the tears that come.

But that means absolutely nothing to God if I don't allow it to change me. Spiritual highs are only real if there's evidence of a changed heart. True worship results in passion in action.

Otherwise it's just empty words and a wet face.

The things we learn through worship, through reading our Bible, through this blog - if it just stays head knowledge or even just heart emotion, it's been a waste of time and energy. If it doesn't affect our words and actions, then it didn't actually affect our heart and soul and mind. We need to allow these truths to penetrate deep into our souls and be reflected in our very lives.

Like Josiah.

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Kings 24-25, Acts 16:1-21

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday, July 18 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: 2 Kings 19-21, Galatians 5

Scripture: Galatians 5:7-9
 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

Even in the middle of a good race, something small can knock you off course. It can be a small thing, but even a small thing done that is not honouring God, is enough to keep you from obeying the truth.

Do any of you ever get off track from something? For myself, I find that I can be really diligent in my quiet time with God, or a new healthy eating plan, or regular workouts, then BAM, something gets me off track. It's usually not a big event or reason. It can be as small as a change in routine one day, to totally knock me off kilter. Lysa Terkeurst wrote a really great post on this here on her blog.

"On January 15th, 2009, Flight 1549 took off from New York with 155 occupants on board. The take off went fine, but three minutes later, at only 3,000 feet they encountered a flock of geese. Both engines were shut down. And, Captain Sully had to make a surprisingly successful emergency landing on the Hudson River.
As I watched this story being covered over and over on the news, I was stunned birds brought the plane down.  Big things can be brought down by small things.
We would do well to remember this principle in life.
Here’s the question that begs to be asked at this point, “What are some ‘little’ things posing big dangers in our life right now?” It’s a great question to consider. However, just like Captain Sully didn’t see the geese coming toward his engines, often we can be blinded to how some things are a much bigger deal than they appear.
Here’s a great verse to consider, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people,”  (Ephesians 5:3).
Consider how Satan wants us to get these desires met in ways that draw us away from God’s best.
Emotional desires — affection from boys taken too far can lead to sexual immorality.
Physical desires — excessive amounts of unhealthy choices, cigarettes, or other numbing substances are impurities in our body.
Material desires – spending to oversupply ourselves at the expense of being able to give to God and others is greed.
What’s so interesting to me is the exact phrasing the Bible uses in regards to the amount of immorality, impurities, and greed that’s acceptable. “Not even a hint!” In other words not only should we not have these things in our lives, we shouldn’t even participate in activities that hint in that direction.
Why?  Because a hint is starting to flirt with little compromises.
Little compromises lead to excuses. Excuses lead to justifications. And justifications lead to trying to get our legitimate needs met in illegitimate ways. Illegitimate ways lead to a sinful lifestyle choice. Sinful lifestyles choices always, always, always separate us from God.
And that’s exactly where Satan wants us.
Do you see the subtle progression? A hint can turn into a full blown sinful lifestyle choice which separates us from God. Indeed big things (the great life God has planned for us) can be brought down by little things (hinting, flirting, toying with compromises we think are no big deal.)"

This is a message that is close to my heart. I am the queen of subtle progression when it comes to certain areas of my life. I know that God is calling me to be a disciplined person through HIS strength, and today's reading really opened my eyes to the idea of a "little yeast working through the whole batch of dough". I love how Lysa ends her blog post:

"And if we identify we’re on the slippery slope of compromise, excuses, justifications and sin, it’s never too late to hit the brakes and throw it in reverse.
Please hear me — it’s never too late.
You’ve never gone too far that God can’t redeem you, restore you, forgive you, and give you a second chance. Though there are ramifications for the choices made, the quicker we turn away from sin, the less severe those consequences will be."
Father God, thank you for your whispers of conviction. Strengthen my ears and my resolve to stop and hear you today. Tune my heart and my will to be aligned with yours Father. Open my eyes to the little compromises that arise to draw me away from running the good race. Thank you for planning a great life for me! Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Kings 22-23, Galatians 6

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday, July 17th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Kings 17-18, Galatians 4

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. 2 Kings 18:5-7a

Hezekiah trusted God and was faithful and obedient to Him throughout his life. And the Lord blessed him.

Did you notice the part that said "there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah"? That's amazing!! (Due to the reference of Judah, we know that this only took into consideration the kings after the kingdom split, so it does include David). Isn't that incredible? There were several good kings of Judah, but none like Hezekiah.

So, what made him so unique?

First of all, he trusted God. When I read that it reminded me of a post I read by Jon Acuff on his blog StuffChristiansLike which said (in part)....

Secretly inside, a thought has been brewing, but I didn’t know how to say it until I heard someone else voice the same thing. I was at the neighborhood pool, which is of course awesome, and I met one of my neighbors. We shook hands, made small talk and then he asked me what I thought about living there. I told him .... and he said,

“I know. This place is great. God is going to have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming.”

I get that! I’ve been thinking that too. And it made me realize a few things:

1. The god in my head is a jerk.
The first thing I think he’s going to do when I bump into something good is take it all away in some horrific call to somewhere else.

2. The god in my head calls me to things I’d hate.
He’s not a god that lines up the unique way he created me with a unique calling. In fact he does just the opposite. He finds something I love and then acts me to do something I’d hate. He knows I love writing and hate math so soon he’s going to make me teach Calculus.

3. The god in my head doesn’t give good things, he removes them.
When I find myself in the middle of something good, my instinct is to wrap my arms around it and protect it from the god in my head, not thank him for it.

How did I get there?

How did I get so far away from who I feel like God tries to reveal himself as over and over in the Bible?

As I’ve said before, when God has a single moment to reveal himself to Moses in Exodus 33, what does he show him? Does he show him his might or his power or his anger? When he essentially says, “When you see me, this is what I want you to see,” what does he show Moses? His goodness.

“I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.”

He reveals his goodness. God isn’t a jerk. God is good.

And throughout the Bible, God doesn’t call people to things they’re not created for. He calls them to situations that awaken deep seated purpose and desires in people that God himself placed there before they were even born. Paul, the loud, bold, road tripping persecutor of Christians, is not called by God on the road to Damascus to become a quiet, shy, homebody theologian. He becomes a loud, bold, road tripping megaphone of hope.

God doesn’t call us to things we’re not designed to do.

Throughout the Bible, we also see a picture of God as someone who delights in giving....God loves goodness. God loves mercy, not sacrifice. God loves gift giving. God loves the sick. God loves the mess-ups.

And though it may feel hard to believe if you’ve spent years with a different god in your head, God loves you. (emphasis mine)

Do we trust God? Do we trust God to give us the desires of our heart if we give Him authority over our lives? Do we trust in His goodness, mercy, giftgiving, healing, love? Do we trust Him?

Hezekiah did. And we will know if we truly trust Him, by what? According to this scripture, the evidence of Hezekiah's trust in God was the fact that he held fast to God, he did not cease to follow Him and he obeyed Him.

If we truly trust God we will hold fast to God and never let go, no matter our circumstances, no matter how bad things get, no matter the storms that may come - we will hold fast to God, to Jesus, to the Word of life.

If we truly trust God we will not cease to follow Him. Our faith will be consistent and it will be long lasting. We will persevere, we will not give up.

If we truly trust God we will obey Him. Our walk will match our talk. Obedience is the evidence of our faith and what we really think about God.

And what was the result of Hezekiah's trust in God? The Lord was with him and he was successful.

The Lord was with him and the Lord blessed him.

If we trust God, if we hold fast to Him, follow Him faithfully and obey Him - the Lord will be with us and He will bless us. This doesn't necessarily mean materially (though He sometimes blesses us that way too). But He will bless us and He will be with us. Isn't that a fantastic promise?!

Dear Lord, sometimes we have preconceived notions of you that are so far from reality and we don't even realize it. Help us to trust You and who You say You are. Help us to trust Your Word, help us to trust in You. Give us a desire for You, a desire to hold fast to You and never let go. A desire to follow You wholeheartedly and faithfully for the rest of our lives. A desire to meditate on Your Word and wield it as we fight temptation in order to live our lives in obedience to You. We thank You that You are with us, help us to delight in Your presence. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Kings 19-21, Galatians 5

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday, July 16th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Kings 15-16; Galatians 3

After going through a slew of evil kings of Israel, we come to Ahaz King of Judah. Some of this king's more evil acts included sacrificing his own son to pagan gods, as well as desecrating the altar and the temple of God, using it to design a pagan altar on which to worship instead. Blatant and callous disregard for God and His holiness.

My Life Application Bible says....
Evil King Ahaz copied pagan religious customs, changed the temple services, and used the temple altar for his personal benefit...We condemn Ahaz for his action, but we act the same way if we try to mold God's message to fit our personal preferences. We must worship God for who he is, not what we would selfishly like him to be. (emphasis mine)

Wow - totally ties in with our thoughts from the other day about the "all or nothing" mentality that we have to take when it comes to God's written Word.

Also ties in well with our Galatians passage. In his sermon, The Purpose of the Law, John MacArthur talks about how contemporary Christianity has missed the mark with our approach in reaching the unsaved, often preaching a prosperity, or even simply a feel-good gospel. But that's not what they need.

There is no truth, no authority, no rules and no judge. And that is the pervasive philosophy that is being sold to our society. We could technically address it as Post Modern Moral Relativism, Personal Freedom and Humanistic Atheism. Simply said, no truth, no authority, no rules and no judge. Bottom line: you have nothing to which you are accountable. There are no consequences for your behavior except those that are built into it, and you can choose to do whatever you want. You're in charge.

Now, on the other hand, we need to tell this society this: there is truth, there is an authority, there are rules, there is a judge, and every single one of you will answer to him. That's reality. And the Christian message is directly in contradiction to the reigning philosophy of today. (emphasis mine)

Until they understand the law they will never understand grace.

The Bible is clear that salvation is by faith alone. You cannot work your way into heaven. So, why the law? If salvation is by faith alone, then what purpose does the law serve?

The Mosaic Law was added to the Abrahamic Covenant. It did not nullify it, it added to it. The Abrahamic Covenant was a declaration of God's blessing. The Mosaic Law was a declaration of God's curse and judgment. The Mosaic Law was necessary in order for all of humanity to recognize man's utterly lost condition and incapacity for self-redemption. Abraham got it. He didn't need the law in order to recognize it. But the world as a whole needed some way to recognize that we are damned before God and desperately in need of a forgiveness that we are completely unable to earn. And so the law was given in order for our own sin to be revealed to us.

But this Mosaic Covenant was only in effect until the coming of Christ - it pointed to Christ and found it's fulfillment and completion in Christ. Fulfilled, but not presently irrelevant.

The ceremonial part of the law, gone. The moral part, which is the revelation of the character of God which has always been true, in all eras of redemptive history, is still in place and it is now clearly given to us on the pages of the Old Testament and the New Testament. We know God's moral and religious and spiritual standards, and we also, in knowing those standards, become guilty before them. The law as we face it becomes a mirror......To show us God's standard, to demand that we keep it, to exacerbate our sinfulness so it's inescapable and then to make us feel the weight of shame and sin because of our condition. That's the function of the law. (emphasis mine)

And in doing so, the law leads us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith alone.

And so I say to you, there is truth, there is absolute truth. There is an authority. And that authority is the eternal sovereign God. There are rules clearly given to us on the pages of Scripture, and for those who break them, there is judgment by the all-seeing, all-knowing Judge. And that judgment has eternal consequence to find, as eternal torment, eternal punishment in a place called Hell. And you can bear your own judgment if you choose, or you can acknowledge with repentance and faith the sacrifice of Christ for you and ask God to forgive your sins on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and never be judged for Christ will have borne your judgment.

That's the message we preach. And it doesn't have any sense to it if all we say is Jesus loves you and wants to fix your life. This is far more broad, sweeping than just that. There is blessing and there is cursing. Choose which one you desire. In the promise to Abraham, there is blessing fulfilled by the death of Jesus Christ. In the curse of Moses, there is judgment and damnation fulfilled by you forever. That's the choice. You take your own punishment or you acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord, and He takes it for you. What fool would make the wrong choice? (emphasis mine)

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Kings 17-18, Galatians 4

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday, July 15 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Amos 7-9; Galatians 2.

Our adult Sunday school class went through a series of minor prophets this spring and you know, quite honestly, I think most of us had trouble with the lessons.  After all, the messages are specifically for the people of Israel and Judah, the images are disturbing and hard to understand sometimes... what possible meaning and/or benefit is there for us?  But more and more as I thought and studied, the more I think we often miss the point of these books because we look at the specifics.  Taking them apart chapter by chapter, phrase by phrase often makes them confusing, especially when there are no scholars in the group to help shed light.  I really think the way to understand these Old Testament "minor prophet" books is to read them as a whole.  That's the only way you really get the whole point, the bigger picture.  And when we look at these books that way, it makes a lot more sense that they are included in the Scriptures and are expected to teach us something.

Amos's message is not only to complacent Israelites, but to today's complacent Christians, too ~ those living under a pious veneer of religion, loving material posessions and social status more than serving God, and not really caring about the needy souls around them.  Amos confronts us with these sins and reminds us of how God feels about them.

But he also offers hope for restoration if we choose to confess and change our ways.  Sometimes it's only a small glimmer at the very end of a very ominous sounding book ~ like the case is here with Amos ~ but virtually all the prophets call God's people to repentance, promising God's grace and full restoration if we do.  I believe the promises made to Israel and Judah could very well be literal promises, but the fact that they are included in the Canon of Scripture leads me to believe these are promises somehow for us as well.  And what a beautiful picture is painted in the last few verses!  I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to the days described here, whether in reality or in the spirtual life of the Church!

And then in Galatians chapter 2, what caught my eye was the confrontation between Peter and Paul.  I struggle a bit sometimes with what looks a bit like Paul's superiority complex.  I wonder if that's how other people occasionally felt when he berated them for not living like they should or not setting the example they should??  Of course, this was written after the fact ~ maybe it just sounds harsher the way he writes about it than the actual, real-life conversation was.  In any case, I also sort of admire him for having the courage to confront another "super-apostle."  And I admire that he didn't write letters to the churches or talk to other church leaders; he spoke directly to Peter.  Like my Life Application Bible says, "...there is no place for backstabbing in the body of Christ."

People make mistakes ~ even very sincere, godly people ~ and it may take another sincere, godly person to draw their attention to it and set them straight.  I just hope I am developing the humility necessary to admit when I'm wrong and to continue to grow spiritually if and when I am confronted.  And that my relationships won't suffer, but get stronger as a result.

Tomorrow's passages: 2 Kings 15-16; Galatians 3