Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday, August 31 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 15-16, 2 Corinthians 5

Wow what promises in today's reading of 2 Chronicles!  The first part just hit me, bam!
He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. 5 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. 6 One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

There is so much here!

First off, If we seek Him, we will find Him, but if we forsake Him, He will forsake us.  How much of today's reading is a declaration of today's world?  We are in such disarray, such turmoil because we have forsaken our Lord!    

The next part is like a newspaper headline out of any city "In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another..."  Our world, our nations and cities echo that statement.  There is strife and turmoil everywhere.  But this scripture says it's so because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.

I wonder, I really seriously wonder if the Lord is allowing a lot of what is happening in our world to bring us back.  What did the people of this scripture do?  They turned to the Lord in their distress.  Kinda reminds me of another text we read not so long ago "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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  God is all about getting people to come back to Him and He is willing to do anything to get us to do just that.  He is even willing to risk us turning away for good by sending us through distress, if it means we might come back to Him.

So, yeah, God is sending every kind of distress on our land.  Yeah, He wants us and the people of our nation back.  People, we as Christians need to be on our knees.  We need to be pulling other people down with us to pray.  We need to be praying for others to be praying.

God has given us a promise in the last part of this scripture "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”  How long have some Christians been praying for lost loved ones?  How long have we been praying for our nation?  How long must we pray?  I don't know, I just know this says Do. Not. Give. Up.  Our work will be rewarded.  Rest assured my friends, God hears us.  Our prayers do not fall on deaf ears.  I believe the promises of scripture. I believe God will heal our land.  I encourage you, I implore you to join me in prayer for our nation, our world and the lost.  I pray an insatiable desire to see the lost come to Christ.  I pray that all Christians everywhere are on their knees in prayer.  And whatever you do, don't give up.

PS- I also kept wondering just what the high places were and how they were different from the other areas of pagan worship mentioned in scripture.  I found this website.  Hope it's helpful!

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Chronicles 17-18,  2 Corinthians 6 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday, August 30th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 13-14, 2 Corinthians 4

Reading only 2 Chronicles 13 would give you the impression that Abijah was one of the good kings. But it doesn't specifically say that here, like it does in Chapter 14 with his son Asa who was definitely a good king who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

Chapter 13 tells us about one event, one battle during Abijah's reign where he said the right things, asking God for deliverence, and God answered his prayer.

But if you go back to 1 Kings 15 we see a much different picture.

He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. 1 Kings 15:3

But then we see the reason God answered his prayer in 2 Chronicles 13, despite the fact that he did not walk the talk.

Nevertheless, for David's sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. 1 Kings 15:4

Abijah sounded like a true man of God, but evidently his daily walk did not support those claims. He only called on God when he was in trouble. God did give him the victory, but only to preserve His promise to David.

Moving on to our NT passage, I listened to MacArthur's sermon Clay Pots and the Secret to Serving God on 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Clay pots are basically baked dirt. They're cheap, they're replaceable, they're common - in other words nothing special.

When we preach, when we teach, when we speak, when we live out our faith - we are not preaching ourselves. We are the clay pots. We're not it. We're preaching the gospel. The message of truth is the focus, not us. The gospel is the treasure. We're just the containers.

We need to take ourselves out of the equation. It's not about us.

Now, that doesn't mean we no longer need to read our Bible and study the Word. We have to study it to get it right. But when we speak, it needs to be about the Word, not about us.

That's why His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

It's difficult to use someone who is super smart, super strong, super "whatever". Because often that person has made it all about them. (Ties into the independence thing from a couple days ago). It's all about them and God gets none of the glory.

However, when we admit our weakness, when we admit that we are nothing in our own power/strength - that is when God is glorified. Through common, everyday clay pots.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, August 29 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 10-12, 2 Corinthians 3

Happy Monday Everyone,

4 We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. 5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 6 He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:4-6

This verse is a reminder of what I've been really "getting" over the last couple of months of this Bible blog and my own personal growth. We are NOT qualified in our own right to be anything other than His children. We don't deserve the blessings in our lives and we most definitely don't have what it takes in our own strength to be deserving of God's love. But "Our qualification comes from GOD".

The second part of this passage that resonates with me is that relationship is of the Spirit and not written laws. If we are following God to the best of OUR ability, according to how and what the law tells us - it ends in death. However, if we embrace the new covenant and rely on God as our qualifier - we get life.

But looking more closely at this passage - the intent of it is how we minister to others! How often I get caught up in feeling unworthy to share my faith because I'm stuck in my own human errors. Who am I to tell of the victorious power of God when I am still bound by sin?

I love what John MacArthur says:
Take the Word of God away from me, take the Spirit of God away from me, I have nothing to say. The truth is not in me no matter how intelligent I might be, no matter how brilliant, no matter how skilled oratorically, apart from divine revelation and the impartation of the Spirit of God in my life, I know nothing, I have nothing definitive to say about the spiritual dimension, about reality, about God, about ultimate and eternal truth. I'm not here because I'm a clever speaker. I'm not here because am a learned individual. I'm here because God has placed me here and God has humbled me before His truth and the power of His Spirit and the truth and the Spirit bring to you what God wants you to hear.
Paul is saying there isn't even anything in my life that I can reason properly. I don't have the ability. You take the Bible away from someone like me, take the Holy Spirit away from me and I'm the world's biggest ignoramus. I'm just like everybody else poking around out there trying to figure out what's going on. I don't have any answers. Paul says I wouldn't even reason anything out of myself about anything.

And this my friends, is why we are doing this blog! It's not about anything we have to teach each other, but to grow in His Word and step outside of our own reasoning, to share God's work.

Tomorrow's passage:   2 Chronicles 13-14, 2 Corinthians 4

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday, August 28th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 7-9, 2 Corinthians 2

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ adn through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

As usual, I caught part of the gist of this paragraph, but missed a ton of it! Until MacArthur provided insight once again in his sermon Restoring the Disheartened Pastor's Joy.

In our Corinthian passage we find that Paul was discouraged. He was discouraged because he was focusing on the problems, the circumstances, the difficulties of the church in Corinth.

But then his discouragement turned to joy, not because his circumstances changed, but because his perspective changed.

Instead of looking at the problems, he began to look at the privileges.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us...
God always leads us. We have the privilege of being led by the greatest Commander in Chief, and being in the ranks of others who have served under His sovereign leadership. Our joy will be restored as we give thanks for this privilege.

leads us in triumphal procession in Christ....
Our joy can also be restored when we remember that not only are we under leadership, we are guaranteed the victory in the end! That doesn't mean we will win every battle, but we will win the war. It is guaranteed.

He's not only always leading us, but He's always leading us triumphantly. We're always marching in the great parade. We can never lose. We follow the conquering Hero in the victory parade through life, not as captives, not as prisoners headed to judgment, but as co-conquerors in the great triumph over sin and death and hell.

...and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him....
We also have the privilege of being the instruments God uses to spread the Good News, the privilege of influence - for the winning team!

Not because we are worthy, or we deserve the honour. And so we should not belittle it, just because we don't see the results or successes the way we want to. We can't quit when the going gets tough. You don't measure by results, you measure by privilege.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ...
From my Life Application Bible.....
In a Roman triumphal procession, the Roman general would display his treasures and captives amidst a cloud of incense burned for the gods. To the victors, the aroma was sweet

This aroma is not just sweet to the victorious troops, but to the emperor Himself. God is pleased with the fragrance of the gospel message - not because of the results or numbers - but because the message is true and it is faithfully proclaimed.

among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.
The aroma of the gospel being preached faithfully is smelled by the saved and perishing alike. Those that are saved recognize it as the aroma of life, as the smell of mercy, grace and victory. However, to those who have rejected the gospel it is the smell of death, even if they are unaware of it, for their choice has sealed their judgment (like the captives in the Roman parade).

And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.
Who has the human ability to influence the world for eternity, to be triumphant? No one. Nobody. No one is equal to the task.

when men operate in their own inadequacy they become corrupters of the Word of God. He says we're not like ... the majority, we're not coming in our own human wisdom as he says in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. We're not coming with cleverness of speech and human brilliance. We're not coming with some deceptive talk like the false apostles who are there. That's the best they can do is just peddle a watered-down degraded adulterated product, mixing a little bit of divine truth with Judaistic tradition and paganism to get people to pad their pockets. Dishonest men seeking personal profit at the expense of divine things and the souls of men, fraudulent, adulterators of God's Word.

We can only preach the truth faithfully as in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. In Christ's power, not ours.

Sent by Him under His power.

What joy when we focus on our privileges. To serve under the sovereign leadership, guaranteed to be victorious, allowed to have an influence, able to share in the spread of the Gospel, to be pleasing to Him, solely because of His great mercy and grace and through His power.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday, August 27th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 4-6; 2 Corinthians 1

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Paul and Timothy experienced extreme hardships, beyond their own ability to endure them. In fact, they thought they were going to die. These hardships caused them to rely not on their own power, but on God's power.

I have a pretty independent streak. I like to be independent. I like to be in control of things and I like knowing that I can handle things. (Yes, I'm a firstborn!) And for the most part I could. Or at least, I had allowed myself to believe that I could.

That all changed the summer before Grade 12 when I went on a two month trip with Teen Missions Int'l. That was the first time I remember experiencing something that was beyond my ability to endure on my own. I had rarely been away from home before, I was physically exhausted and on the verge of dehydration as my body adjusted to the extreme July temperatures of swampland Florida (where we did our two week boot camp training before they sent us out on our 6 weeks team missions assignments), I was homesick, I hadn't made any new friends yet and I was emotionally done. I wanted to quit. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be anywhere but there. Because I couldn't do it on my own strength.

And that's exactly the point God wants us to be at. Because it's when we get to the end of our strength, when we feel that we are going through something beyond our ability to endure, that we finally realize that we are not the independent creatures we like to think ourselves to be.

We need God. We need His power. Obviously to get through the really tough times in life.

But you know what? We need Him in every area of life. And we don't even realize it.

Our very breathe, no, the very air we breath - is a gift of God and something we have no control or power of. If God suspended the laws of nature He put in place, we would all be dead in an instant.

And the same is true of our spiritual selves. We need to remain in constant touch with our power source. But we like to think we don't.

We skip a day or two of reading the Word, or praying and think we can handle it.


We can't. We really can't.

Not only that, but suddenly two days become twenty, the months become years, and soon we've all but completely cut ourselves off from our power source.

And so sometimes God needs to bring us to the end of ourselves in order to teach us the same lesson we've likely already learned once or twice (or more!) before. It's one that I, at least, seem to need repeated on a fairly regular basis.

Dear Lord, we thank You that You are always there for us. You are the Creator of life, You are the Giver of life, You are the Sustainer of life. Help us to recognize that it is only when we become dependent on You that we are able to operate fully and completely. Help us to realize that dependence on You is not weakness, but strength! Lord, if necessary, bring us to our knees and help us see our need for You. Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday, August 26 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 1-3; 1 Corinthians 16.

Okay, I'm gonna be honest here: it hasn't been a great week ~ I've struggled considerably with concentrating on spending time with God, both reading and praying.  Both the passages today bored me and I only just briefly skimmed through them.

I did, however, make the effort to listen to a couple of MacArthur's sermons on the last chapter of 1 Corinthians, and though my thoughts wandered even then, I did notice he drew some interesting observations about a passage that seems like nothing more than just some relatively meaningless personal greetings.

I've never really thought about it before, but if I believe those words to be divinely-inspired like the rest of the Scriptures, there must be some significance, some relevance, to our generation even among the "footnotes" of the letter.

Starting in v. 14, Paul begins his concluding remarks by telling the Corinthians to "Do everything in love," and while what follows just looks like a list of personal greetings, MacArthur points out seven evidences of love in the fellowship of believers ~ The Church ~ from these greetings:

1. Evangelism.  The love that the Holy Spirit had given Paul "constrained" him to spread the gospel.  Stephanus and his household were among the first recipients of the manifestation of Paul's love and as a result, they were also the first believers in ancient Greece. The Spirit of God produces this kind of love. You walk in the Spirit, He produces love, and you direct that love to the lost.

2.  Service to the Saints.  Stephanus and his entire household were virtually addicted (a conclusion drawn from the root words in the original text) to serving those who led the congregation as well as in active ministry themselves.

3. Submission.  Paul reminds us that we're ALL under someone else's authority, so we need to learn how to submit, and by example, he points to Stephanus' family.  That family who's addicted to serving ~ submit yourselves to them and learn from them. We're not supposed to be a bunch of people trying to get on top of each other; we should strive to be a bunch of people who are trying to get under the RIGHT people.

4.  Companionship.  Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaiachus were refreshing friends.  When Paul had spent time with them, he felt nourished.  Isn't that often how we feel after a good visit with family or spending time with an old youth leader we really looked up to? Well, that's how our fellow believers at church should feel after being with us, too.

5. Respect. When you find somebody who evangelizes, who serves the saints, who's addicted to the work of the Lord, who sets the right kind of example for you to submit to, then "therefore, acknowledge them that are such." That means to give recognition to; to highly value, to rightly evaluate. The idea is not that we line them all up in the front and crown them king or queen for a day, but that we continually view them with a sense of respect.

6. Hospitality. Christianity is not institutional, it's life, it's living, it's in the home. But it's important to note that this is not directed specifically at women, nor does it necessarily mean we have to always be inviting people over! Our homes ought to be open to the neighbors and to friends and to family and anybody who needs it, but we can ~ and SHOULD be ~ kind, compassionate, thoughtful, generous, and helpful outside our homes, too.

7. Affection. No, we aren't required to kiss everyone at church, but extend a handshake, give a hug or a quick squeeze of the shoulder. Make eye contact, smile, and engage in conversation, making sure that when you ask "How are you today?" that you're prepared to actually listen to the answer! Make a point of making a newcomer feel welcome.

Decades ago, the church we used to attend had this motto: "________ Gospel Church, where you are a stranger only once!" Somewhere along the line, they ditched it, but I think it captures how church should feel to regular attenders and newcomers alike.

Well, I would never have thought there was two hour-long sermons' worth of material in vv. 14-20 alone, but I guess that just goes to show you that mining God's Word really will yield priceless treasures!

Tomorrow's passages: 2 Chronicles 4-6; 2 Corinthians 1

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday, August 25 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 28-29; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.

In Chronicles today I came across a verse (or a portion of a verse) that I remember from last year.  "Be strong and do the work."  I think I might have to make a poster with that phrase on it and put it somewhere where I will see it all the time.  In fact, it makes me think of another verse from Ecclesiastes - Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Do it with all your might.  Changing diapers, preparing meals, and folding laundry.  Preparing children's stories or Sunday School lessons for church.  Bringing snack to playgroup.  "Whatever your hand finds to do" - also meaning to me "whatever God assigns you" or "whatever your part in the body of Christ" - do it with all your might.  Be strong and do the work.  While the work you see to be done in front of you may not seem as important or as noteworthy as, say, curing cancer or being a missionary in a foreign country, it is your work and it is the portion of the BIGGER PLAN that we don't know and can't see.  

Moving over to Corinthians - Our passage today says "We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."  Who else is REALLY CURIOUS about what our spiritual bodies will look like?  I know I am.  I don't remember this portion of Scripture.  I don't pretend to know that much about the end of this world.  It is most definitely something I need to learn more about.  And preferably not from the end times movies from the 70s that scared the absolute you-know-what out of me when I was a teenager.  But it gives me great comfort to know that Jesus has power over death and that we will be raised (or changed, as the case may be).  Death is not the end.  Christ rose from the dead and so we know that there is more than this earthly life and that we have the hope of eternity in Heaven.  And then the last verses of the chapter - "But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  And we're back again to doing the work.  

Be strong, give yourselves fully, and do the work, whatever your hand finds to do, and know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Happy Thursday!

 Tomorrow's passage:  2 Chronicles 1-3; 1 Corinthians 16.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday, August 24 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 26-27, 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

Good morning!  I do not find it difficult to speak of the end of the world after we felt an earthquake in our neck of the woods.  And we don't get them here very often here on the east coast.  Whew!  Makes one sure of where you are going after you breathe your last.

As I was reading the I Corinthians passage, I was thinking "whats the big deal?  I mean, come on, everyone knows that you go somewhere when you die."  But then again, maybe they don't.  If you think about it that thought process would explain much of the world's behavior today.  If there is no place to go when we die and there is no one to answer to about the things that we do, then why try to be good?  Why not just have as much fun?  Or to say it a different way "Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die!"  I see now why Paul spent so much time talking about the resurrection.  And it's not just so that we know we have an authority over us.  No, he's saying that if there is no resurrection then our faith is nothing and what Christ did on the cross is nothing.  If we have no resurrection after death then there was no purpose to Christ dying on the cross and being raised again on the third day.  Resurrection is such a integral part of our salvation.  This life is not the end.  That is reassuring to me.

I saw a scripture that I had never seen before:
24Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
This is from the New King James that I personally read.  This scripture is awesome to me.  It shows the power and big-ness of God.  We are looking to another presidential election here.  (Ugh.)  We think these men and women have so much power.  And all they really have is lots of money, lots of charisma and lots of white, shiny teeth.  Apart from God they have no power.  They don't realize their power is from God.  And one day all of those powerful governments, who can make or break people, will be brought down before the feet of God.  I don't know about you, but this makes me feel a whole lot better about the governments in place today.  They are so temporary and so weak in comparison to the power of our God.  In light of this scripture men and women in government don't seem so powerful after all.  And for that I am joyful.  

 Tomorrow's passage: 1 Chronicles 28-29, 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday, August 23rd

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 23-25, 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Two sentences jumped out at me in our Corinthians reading today.

Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 1 Corinthians 14:26b
In this passage Paul was referring, in particular, to the way worship was carried out. The goal of the Christian worship service - everything from the teaching to the singing - was and is to edify and build up the church.

John MacArthur says....
And so then, we are committed to edifying. We meet together to edify. You say, but what happens with evangelism. Well, how do we reach out if all we do is edify the saints? Well, it's very easy to see the answer to that if you look at Acts 9:31... "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria and were edified..." All right. The churches were doing what they should have been doing. They were being edified or built up to maturity. Now watch. "...and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were"...what?..."multiplied." You see, growth is a result of edification. As the church is built up, it will reach out and evangelism will be a by-product. So we meet together to be edified, beloved. We meet together to be taught the Word of God. We meet together to be exposed to God's truth in a way that it will cause us to grow to maturity. (emphasis mine)

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33a
Isn't this so true? Our God is not a God of disorder.

Anyone who has ever read the Pentateuch can vouch for that! Detail after minute detail to be followed to the letter. Order. Not chaos.

The service of the church should manifest the character of God... When we come together, Paul says, we should, by the order and the beauty and the dignity and the system and all that is a part of our service, be manifesting a God whom we serve. And our God is not a God of confusion. And our God is a God of peace. And when somebody comes to your church, he sees confusion and fighting for preeminence and he concludes that you have a confused, angry, fighting God, see. I'm sure there are people who see what goes on in some of the charismatic chaos today and say, boy, their God must really be a mess. God is a God of order and God is a God of dignity and God is a God who functions systematically for results, not chaotically for feelings. And God is to be made manifest in the worship of His church. People will say sometimes, you know, I came to your church and it wasn't what you said; it was just what I could sense about the whole service. I hope that's true. I hope that what you sense when you hear the magnificent beauty of the music of the choir is that God is a God of harmony. I hope when you see the sort of gentle beauty of a simple building, you see the beauty and the design and the symmetry of God. And I hope when you hear that which edifies you, you know that God is a God who wishes to give instruction. And I hope when you sense a warm and a passionate heart that you sense that God is a God who cares, see. And I hope when you touch the lives of the people sitting around you, you know that God is a God who feels and breathes and cares about you and is sensitive. You see, that's what God wants in the fellowship of His church to be made manifest...His nature. (emphasis mine)

Every one of us, not just the pastor or the worship leader or the others up front, contribute to the atmosphere that is present during the worship service. Are we seeking to edify each other? Are we helping create an atmosphere where the attributes of God are seen and felt?

Are we even showing up for the right reasons?

We should be going to church for several reasons - to worship God, to learn more about God, to fellowship with other believers - all of which should be done in such a way that God's character/nature is manifest (correctly!) and that the church as a whole is built up.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 20-22, 1 Corinthians 14:1-25
Happy Monday Everyone! I'm going to focus on the New Testament reading today as it's on speaking on gifts of the spirit and that's a super interesting topic for me.

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,[b] but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,[c] unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

The tone of this whole reading made me think that there must have been some kind of trouble with some "over the top" speaking in tongues and that maybe this passage is a bit of a reality check. I looked up what John McArthur had to say:

But as we come to the Corinthian situation, we find that they had counterfeited the real gift of tongues and substituted a pagan, ecstatic kind of speech. The true gift had been confused with ecstatic tongues, which was the counterfeit.
Such ecstasies and ecstatic speech is very common in pagan religion. I'm not going to take the time this morning to go from one end of the world and one end of history to the present to prove that, but I want you to understand that. This is a very common thing in pagan religion. I was reading an article this week about how common it is among the Zulus in Africa, this kind of ecstatic, gibberish speech. We've discussed that in the past...

The Greeks even had a word for this ecstatic religious experience, and you'll be interested to know what it was. It was the word eros. Remember that word? We sometimes translate it as sensual love, but the word erosis a bigger word than that; it has a broader meaning. It means 'the desire for the sensual, or 'the desire for the erotic,' or 'the desire for ecstasy,' or 'the desire for the ultimate experience or feeling.' The kind of religion they had was an erotic, sensual, ecstatic religion, designed to be felt. In fact, you'll remember if you studied those religions, that when people went to those temples and visited those priestesses to worship, they would actually enter into orgies.
So the whole idea of erotic, sexual, sensual, ecstatic, and gibberish that went on with divine utterances - all was rolled into one big ball under the mystery religions, which had been spawned in Babylon, had come into the Corinthian society. I'm not going to take the time to read you all of the information on that, but there is tremendous historical information that tells us that this did occur...

You say, "John, it says in verse 4 that you can speak in an unknown tongue and edify yourself." Well, but that doesn't edify the church. That's the whole point. You say, "But if the tongues are translated, they edify the church." Yes, but it was the gift of interpretation that edified, not the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues is useless to edify the church, because nobody knew what is being said. That's what he said to the Corinthians. "With all of that going on, even if the real gift happened to be used, even if someone popped up with the real thing, it wouldn't edify anybody in and of itself. It would have to be translated. That's what he says at the end of verse 5, "Except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying."
It's wonderful to know that when the true gift of tongues was used as a sign and when God did want to use the true gift, and it was used with other Christians present, God would always have somebody there with the gift of interpretation to interpret so that it would not go without meaning to the church. Because even when the true gift was used which couldn't edify, God gave the gift of interpretation so that the church would be edified. You see, God never wanted anything going on in the church that didn't edify and build up. The way the Corinthians were using the gift was chaotic. They had determined that it would edify the church in and of itself. It won't. When people use it for their own sake, they are trying to edify themselves.

This confirmed my beliefs around speaking in tongues. I like how it is outlined so clearly that the interpretation is more important than actually speaking in tongues. And... be careful! In all our gifts, let us seek out the edification of Christ and the church first! Beware of self-edification in our worship and seek with our hearts AND our minds.

What are your beliefs on speaking in tongues? Have any of you ever experienced or witnessed the speaking or interpreting of tongues?

Tomorrow's passage:   1 Chronicles 23-25, 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday, August 21st

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 17-19 - 1 Corinthians 13

Today's readings just made me marvel once again at David and how, despite his huge failings, he was truly a man after God's own heart.

After building an amazing palace for himself, David longed to build a temple for the Lord to dwell in. He felt convicted that he had built himself this beautiful lodging, yet had built nothing for God. His desire absolutely came from the right motivation, it came from love. (1 Corinthians 13!!)

But what was God's response?

You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. 1 Chronicles 17:4b

Have you ever had a fantastic idea that you came up with? A way to bless someone that you just knew they would love and you couldn't wait to do it?

On a MUCH more minor scale, this happened to me once. I had been planning for months to throw my best friend a surprise party for her 30th birthday. And finally when it came close, I told her mom about my plans - only to find out someone else was already planning one. And then, when we attended the party, I was very disappointed with the end result and knew it would've been so much better if I had been the one planning it for her. (OK - so that last part doesn't really fit the parallel I'm going for here.)

But my initial disappointment sure does!

I was extremely disappointed. And that's probably an understatement.

Over a 30th birthday party.

I can only imagine how disappointed King David must've been when God said "No".

And it wasn't that God say no for any disciplinary reasons. It was because David had shed too much blood (in obedience to God's own commands!). No, David would not build God a temple. His son would. And God promised David that his kingdom would be established forever.

Many people, after being denied their heart's desire, would choose to look at that glass half empty.

But David did not.

Instead of being angry, he was humble.

Instead of being hurt, he was thankful.

Instead of being resentful or envious, he praised God.

Instead of focusing on the thing being denied, he focused on the blessings being promised.

Sounds like a lot of the same qualities we find in 1 Corinthians 13 - the love chapter.

David loved God.

It could be said that the true measure of an individual is shown during our trials, tribulations, and disappointments. When emotions are raw, any pretense is stripped away and we reveal our true inner selves.

I want my true inner self to reveal love, as David's did.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday, August 20-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 87-88; 1 Corinthians 12.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12: 15-18

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

Observation: Our gifts are determined by God and are no less important than any other.

Application: I think our general human nature is to compare ourselves to others. As much as we are individuals, we believe that we long to be the same as everyone else. We compare ourselves to others, we copy others, and we try to be like others. And yet, God said in Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” This includes "you shall not covet thy neighbour's spiritual gift".

God created us uniquely for His purpose and such has given us gifts to use for that. Not just any gifts, or the same gifts, but the gifts we need to fulfil his plan. I love the analogy of the body because it really makes it clear that each gift is valuable and important and that the body (the church) is less effective without it. In fact, giving specialized gifts makes us more effective because we are able to excel in our gift if we use it well. If our feet were given multiple purposes like the walk and see and hear, they no doubt would be less effective than to have the single task of getting us from one place to another. Similarly, if each person was given every spiritual gift, they would not able to develop their gift the same way to become an expert in it than if they excelled in one area. Similarly if every person had all gifts, it would be like having a whole body of eyes or ears because there would be no specialization.

Just like the body has separate parts and functions, our spiritual gifts are diverse but no less valuable than any other. Functioning as a whole, the body is able to do great things because each part is doing their job to its full capacity. We all have our role in the church too. We have been blessed by God and given a unique talent and contribution. If we are not using it, we are making our church body less effective in its role. What is your gift? Are you wishing you had another? Or are you using your gift as God intended to grow His family of believers?

Prayer: Lord, You are the giver of all things. You have given us life and blessed us so richly. We quickly forget how much we are blessed by You and how You have a divine plan for our lives. Thank you for the wisdom of Your word that makes it clear to us that You know what You are doing. Thank You for each gift that You give to us and help us to learn how to embrace it as our own and develop it to use to Your glory. Guide us to see our gifts as uniquely chosen just for us and to acknowledge the gifts as others as theirs alone and not something we are lacking. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Chronicles 17-19 - 1 Corinthians 13

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday, August 19 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 73 & 85; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

I found I could identify well with Asaph in Psalm 73.  Why does it always look like "good guys finish last??" Why is it so many non-Christians ~ some of them really quite unsavoury characters ~ seem to have such a good, easy life, while so many Christians struggle? They seem untouched by the worries and circumstances that plague so many. It's so easy to "envy the arrogant when [I see] the prosperity of the wicked." How many times have I felt there seems so little point in living like a Christian when life could be so much easier, business would be more profitable, and I'd get the things I want if I didn't?

Just like Asaph, I feel confused and frustrated (v. 16)... until I enter the sanctuary of God. I open His Word and I am reassured once again that there IS a point, that the good life non-Christians enjoy now is their only reward, but I have a reward in heaven to look forward to. I realize how ignorant, selfish, and petty my thoughts were when I'm reminded that God is my strength, my portion forever. I love Psalm 73!!

Skipping over Psalm 85 brings us to a pretty monumental passage in the New Testament. Because the letters to the Corinthians don't appear first in our New Testaments, it's easy to forget that Paul's first letter to the believers in Corinth was likely the very first written document after the time of Christ to be included in the Scriptures. It was written approximately 20 years after Christ's death ~ a good 5-10 years before the books of Matthew and Luke were written, and 30-40 years before the Gospel of John.

Only the book of Mark was written around this same time, but since Mark gives only the barest of details, Paul's writing here to the Corinthian church is really the first instruction the early church got on the observance of the Lord's Supper. Many scholars believe this is why there is actually fairly little detail given in any of the Gospels about HOW the Lord's Supper should be observed; Paul had already addressed it here.

He actually gives the instruction in the midst of a harsh rebuke of how the Corinthian Christians had begun to pervert the observance. Evidently, what we'd call the Communion "service" was preceded by something generally called "The Love Feast," which was, essentially, a potluck dinner. The problem was, the rich would get there early and eat all the good stuff, get drunk on all the wine, and the poor would be left with nothing when they arrived. So Paul lambastes the church for this practice, telling them that in no way could what they're doing be called the Lord's Supper, and then he drops in the beautiful explanation of the remembrance ceremony before continuing on with the rebuke.

He continues on, stressing the importance of examining our hearts before we take Communion and of coming with the right attitude and the right view of the whole thing so that we won't bring God's judgment on ourselves. Evidently, some Corinthian Christians had become sick ~ some had even died ~ as a result of God's judgment on their flagrant abuse of what was supposed to be a beautiful symbol of unity with Christ and His sufferings, as well as the anticipation of His coming Kingdom.

Before wrapping up his instruction with a reminder to eat at home so that over-eating at the communal Love Feast wouldn't be as much of a temptation, Paul says something that REALLY caught my attention. He's still talking about bringing judgment on ourselves, but notice verse 32: "When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." Did you get that? God punishes believers so that we will not be damned with the rest of the world in eternity! Isn't that incredible??!

Hebrews 12:6 says God disciplines the ones he loves, and chastens every son whom he receives. His loving discipline isn't just to teach us right from wrong, but as part of His plan to save us from a fiery eternal destiny. And this, I think, brings us back to the theme of Psalm 73 and gaining a better perspective of why it looks sometimes like God is letting unrepentant sinners get away with things He'd NEVER let us get away with!

Just one more reason to love Him more, to want to identify ourselves with Him more, and to continue to anticipate the glorious goodness of eternal fellowship with Him.

Tomorrow's passages: Psalm 87-88; 1 Corinthians 12

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday, August 18 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 48-50; 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.

Oh-K!  Wow.  As I read our 1 Corinthians passage for myself today, it seemed to state clearly that women are to cover their heads.  I don't believe I've ever really contemplated this passage before, probably just glossing over it, thinking "No one I know ever covers their head, so this must no longer be applicable."

But wait... no longer applicable?  There is nothing in the Bible, to my knowledge, that is no longer applicable.  Is there?  The only reason we no longer have to make animal sacrifices and so on as they did in the Old Testament is because Jesus' blood fulfilled that requirement in perpetuity, not because it is no longer necessary.  So here, in the early church founded on the gospel of Christ, head covering is required.  Why not now?  Is it because women in our culture no longer cover their heads and so, as part of our culture, we don't either?  I'm not sure what to make of this.

I'm thinking back to my childhood and realizing that the ladies in the Mennonite church we attended at the time DID cover their heads in a manner of speaking, if recollection serves.  I know my grandmother, at least, wore a kind of netted thing like a decorative hairnet that had some flowers on it.  I don't think she does so anymore, but why not?  And why did she wear it then?  Because even though they lived in Canada, with North American culture, they were observing a Mennonite tradition?  If so, why has it changed?  Because the Mennonite "culture," if you want to call it that, has become assimilated?  Sorry I'm asking so many questions.  This is all new to me.

I looked up a study by Bob Deffinbaugh (1 Corinthians 11:1-16 - It's Issues & Implications) on and his feeling on the passage is that a woman should have her head covered, demonstrating submission to male leadership and ultimately to God.

To sum up verses 1-16, Paul is instructing women to cover their heads in order to demonstrate to the angels and celestial powers their submission to God’s appointed authority. Paul does not present head coverings as a matter of his opinion, but as an apostolic tradition. He does not describe this as a matter of Christian liberty, or as a personal conviction, but as a matter of obedience. (“Let her cover her head” in verse 6 is an imperative, buttressed by the “ought” of verse 10.) Paul mentions no other alternative symbol nor does he imply there may be some other way to symbolize submission to male headship. He also speaks of the head covering of women as the consistent practice of every church and not just that of the Corinthian church. Anyone who would wish to debate with Paul over his teaching in these verses seeks to reject a tradition held and practiced in every church.

The assumption is often made that we must first understand the cultural setting of a particular passage before we can understand or apply it. Knowing the cultural background of any text is helpful, but it is not mandatory. If it is vitally important, the biblical text (in the context or elsewhere in the Bible) will supply what we have to know. If this were not so, we could have no confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture—that it contains all that is necessary for life and godliness (see 2 Peter 1:2-42 Timothy 3:16-17). It would also mean that some book, or books other than Scripture, are necessary for us to understand and apply the Word of God. Corinth appears not to have one given culture; rather Corinth was a cosmopolitan city with a wide diversity of cultures. In 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 4:14-17, 11:16, and 14:33-34, Paul indicates that his teaching in this epistle is for every Christian in every culture. These truths are not culture-bound; thus, we need not know all we might wish to know about the cultural setting in Corinth. 

He quotes a lot of the questions that I found myself asking and provides answers according to scripture, if you'd like to read up on it further.

I agree with almost everything John Macarthur says in The Subordination and Equality of Women.  But then, taking two exerpts from the same sermon:

Earlier in the message, he is talking about having women as pastors, which he opposes, and he says:  
This desire to force into leadership in the church women simply because this is what's happening. The church wants to accommodate itself to society.
These books are coming out, written by women and in some cases by men, saying that whenever the Bible says this, it's either cultural, it's either Paul repeating his opinion, it isn't inspired by God, or we're misinterpreting it.
Those who listen to such writers are going to be confused. You're going to have to come up with the same conclusion that they do. In every case, they ultimately have to say, "Not all of what Paul said is the revelation of God. Some of it was his own opinion, and when he gave it, he was wrong."

Later, as pertains to the covering of the head, he says:

What it amounted to was this: In the society in Corinth, women who were proper, women who were modest, women who wanted to make a statement publicly and visibly about their submission to their husbands, women who were feminine, women who were genteel and wanted to take the role that was assigned to them in their society wore a veil as a symbol of their submission. That was the symbol--to be veiled.

Remember, dress is very cultural. We have to keep it in mind. What is proper in once place is not proper in another place, and you've got to make some adjustments. The principle here is that women should conform in matters of dress to that which society says is the mark of a modest, submissive woman.

Which is it?  We are NOT to conform to society in the case of a woman's role in the church, but when it comes to standards of dress, we ARE to conform to society?  Not to say that style of dress is of equal importance to the role of women in the church, but where do we draw the line?

So, having said all this, do I think women should cover their heads?  I lean towards no.  I understand the reasonings of both of the studies/sermons above, but in the end, I also think that whether or not one wears a head covering is not a vital issue overall.  Your faith, your prayers, and your submission in spirit are all as apparent to God as your head covering would be.  Your submission or lack thereof is certainly apparent to your husband.  A head covering in the 21st century wouldn't indicate submission to the general public, although it might set you apart, which isn't a bad thing.  As Christians, we are not to conform to the world.

I like a couple of the last paragraph's of Bob's study:

I urge you not to confuse form with function. To merely place a covering upon one’s head does not make one submissive. I have observed some very unsubmissive women who would not think of going to church without their head coverings. The scribes and Pharisees had an obsession about keeping certain forms, but in function they completely missed the point of the Law. These discrepancies between form and function, between practice and principle, were a major bone of contention between the religious leaders of Israel and our Lord Jesus. May I add that they were meticulous about crucifying Jesus according to the rules (cf. Matthew 26:57-66, 27:3-6; John 18:31-32), but it was a sinful and damnable act (cf. Acts 2:23).
I also ask you not to make head covering the touchstone of submission and spirituality. It is so easy for the one who believes head covering is a biblical requirement to pass judgment on the submissiveness of a woman solely on the basis of whether or not she has a covering on her head. No external act, no matter how meritorious, is proof of one’s spirituality. Neither is the absence of a head covering proof that a woman is unsubmissive. While we might desire to be made (or at least considered) spiritual by the observance of some specific practice such as head covering, the spiritual life is simply not like that. Many godly women may cover their heads as an act of submission; many submissive wives may not do so, convinced that it is not required or even beneficial. In and of itself, head covering, or the absence of it, will not determine and may not reflect one’s spiritual state.158
(emphasis mine)

Have a great weekend!

 Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 73; Psalm 85; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday, August 17 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 45-47, 1 Corinthians 10:19-33

I found great interest in one word that I've read numerous times but just kinda glossed over.  Selah.  It's listed several times in our psalm readings for today and yet I've never seen a good explanation for the word.  So, I thought, if I need to learn about it, others might too.  So here is what I learned.

Question: "What does ‘selah’ mean in the Bible?"

The word “selah” is found in two books of the Bible, but is most prevalent in the Psalms, where it appears 71 times. It also appears three times in the third chapter of the minor prophet Habakkuk. 

There is a great deal of confusion about the meaning of “selah,” primarily because the Hebrew root word from which it is translated is uncertain. Well-meaning Bible scholars disagree on the meaning and on the root word, but since God has ordained that it be included in His Word, we should make an effort to find out, as best we can, the meaning. 

One possible Hebrew word that is translated “selah” is calah which means “to hang” or “to measure or weigh in the balances.” Referring to wisdom, Job says, “The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold" (Job 28:19). The word translated “valued” in this verse is the Hebrew calah. Here Job is saying that wisdom is beyond comparing against even jewels, and when weighed in the balance against wisdom, the finest jewels cannot equal its value.

“Selah” is also thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.” Another commentator believes it comes from salah, “to pause.” From these words comes the belief that “selah” is a musical direction to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the Psalms, which was the hymnbook of the Israelites. If this is true, then each time “selah” appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, either to take a breath, or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise Him about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This would encompass all these meanings—praise, lift up, and pause. When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how “selah” could mean “to pause and praise.” Even though Habakkuk was not written to be sung, Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace and sufficiency.

Perhaps the best way to think of “selah” is a combination of all these meanings. The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where “selah” appears. When we see the word in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." Selah!  This excerpt found here.  

My interest in this word was probably pricked by the fact that my aunt, who we just visited this past weekend, went to a Selah concert while we were away. She played music from the band monday morning while we were eating breakfast and it does put one in mind of pausing, thinking and praising.

There is so much to gain by learning the meaning of the word.  If we do indeed pause and praise at the various intervals that the text instructs, we become more interactive with the text, rather than just passive.  We think more on what the text is saying and then we put it into action, rather than just letting it gloss over our brains.  I think it's kinda neat that the Lord included some more interactive instructions in the text.  He knows that some of us need more 'hand's on' work to learn.  Thank you Father God!
   Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 48-50, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16