Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday, September 30 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 47-49; Romans 9:1-15.

So sorry for the lateness of this post!    Almost nothing about my week went according to plan and this was no exception.  It also didn't help that I didn't really know what to write about.  Not that there's nothing to say about today's passages, obviously, just that I had trouble FOCUSING!

It's interesting again though, how the Old and New Testament passages are sort of linked together.  Isaiah's passages hold many promises to Israel and Paul's letter to the Romans defends the character of God to Jews who won't believe because they feel He hasn't kept those promises.  I think this is probably also one of the favourite passages for those who argue there is no longer any special promise for the nation Israel as God's chose people because they broke their covenant relationship with Him.

"Now is it important for Paul to deal with this here? Of course it is. He's been presenting justification by grace through faith. He's been presenting the means of salvation and having presented that he stops and he answers the question about where does the Jew fit in because he knows that any reader who's reading and knows about the history of Israel is going to say, "Well, you keep telling me to come to God through Christ, you tell me that Christ will save me and Christ will take away my sin and Christ will give me His Holy Spirit and Christ will give me eternal life and Christ will take me all the way to glory and He'll never let go of me and He'll love me forever and so forth. You tell me all of that but I'm going to ask you a question. If I can trust Jesus Christ with my life how come He didn't keep His Word to the Jews?" You understand? That's the question that could come up. And so he wants to answer that and in chapter 9, 10 and 11 he develops this whole theology of how the Jew fits in to God's redemptive plan."

The first issue, John MacArthur states, is that the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's promises.  Again, we are reminded of the possibility that God plans for things that, in and of themselves, do not necessarily bring Himself great happiness, but will work together with the rest of history to bring Him greater glory.  Most Jews believe ~ have always believed ~ that all Israel is saved by birth; all are born into the covenant because of their Jewish-ness. Abraham's physical "seed" is automatically a part of the Kingdom. So a full-scale, national rejection of the gospel made no sense to these Jews and disqualified the gospel from being true in their minds. So Paul wants here to help them (and us) understand how the gospel can be true and at the same time be rejected by His covenant people.

In verses 1-5,  Paul sort of sets up the chapter by telling us how much he cares for Israel. And he reminds them they have received the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, that is the liturgical liturgy, the ceremonial sacrificial service, the promises, the fathers and even Christ came through them and to them.  With all that privilege, he says, how sad that they have not believed, that they are lost.  And Paul says it by implication rather than directly that Israel is no longer a blessed nation, they're no longer the one on whom God pours out the benedictions of His great mercy and grace. And Paul is grieved about that.

"And because of this the question comes: has God's plan changed? I mean, does God say He's going to do something, then change His mind in mid stream? But, you see, if you thought that then you'd reject the gospel because you'd have the same fear that He would reject you sooner or later and change His mind and that leaves you in a very insecure position. So Paul must answer the issue.

So, the question that we see then as we look at chapter 9 verses 6 and following is what about Israel, and how could they reject God and God's promises still be valid? And so he says from 6 to 13, the unbelief of Israel is not inconsistent with God's promise. Look at verse 6. "Not as though the Word of God has taken no effect."

To paraphrase that, "I say nothing which implies that the Word of God is failed, or literally has fallen. When I say Israel has been set aside and Israel is no longer blessed and that nation to whom God gave the covenants and the promises and all the law and the ceremonies and everything, that nation has been set aside, when I say that that is not to say that the Word of God has failed...that is not to say that God's promises have been violated or broken or cancelled." The Old Testament affirms that God can't do that, Jeremiah 32:42, "Thus says the Lord, Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people, so I am going to bring on them all the good that I'm promising them."

In other words, God said, "Because I bring disaster doesn't mean I ultimately won't bring good." ...Now the Word of God, notice it there, verse 6, the Word of God, that refers not so much to the Old Testament as a whole but to the covenants and promises of verse 4. When God gave covenants and promises to His people Israel to save them, to give them a Kingdom, to give them glory, to bless them, to give them a King, and so forth, He meant what He said. These have not been cancelled. They haven't been cancelled. Beloved, you must understand that. That's why the nation Israel still exists. That's why it's still there. Of all of the people of that part of the world who existed when Israel existed, there are none left but the Israelites. And God has preserved them because He has yet to fulfill those promises and yet to fulfill those covenants. And their unbelief in no way violates those.

Well how do you explain it then? The end of verse 6, "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel." That's a very important statement. He means that God never promises unconditionally to each offspring of Abraham covenant blessing just because he is an offspring of Abraham. You see, the Jew believes that because he is fleshly descending from Abraham he therefore is included in the covenant...because he is a Jew by birth he is therefore a child of promise. He is therefore redeemed, saved... going to go to heaven. But God never intended that all Israel would be redeemed Israel... for they are not all the true Israel who are of the fleshly Israel.

Though the nation... was chosen as a nation to be a vehicle to transmit the Scriptures, to be a vehicle to propagate the message of monotheism, one God, the choosing of the nation as an entity does not mean that every individual within that nation was also chosen to salvation. So the fact that Israel does not believe, that many individuals don't believe doesn't cancel the promises because God never intended in His sovereignty that every Jew would believe but that within the physical Israel there would be a believing remnant.

The nation was elected to privilege but only individuals are elected to salvation.

The real Israel is the Israel of faith and throughout all of the history of Israel there have been faithless Jews." (all emphasis added)

Yeah, that's what I meant.  He just explains it so much better than I do!  ;)

Tomorrow's passages: Isaiah 50-52; Romans 9:16-33

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 29 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 45-46; Romans 8:22-39.

Oh, how I love it when the OT passage and the NT passage have a common theme!  For me, today, that theme was God's will.  Isaiah says (various verses from today's passage):

I am the LORD, and there is no other;
   apart from me there is no God. 

I form the light and create darkness,
   I bring prosperity and create disaster;
   I, the LORD, do all these things.

“With whom will you compare me or count me equal?
   To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?

   I am God, and there is no other;
   I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
   from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
   and I will do all that I please.’

And Romans says:

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 

This is something that's become more and more clear as I've come to know the character of God better and learned more and more about both the Bible and about Him -- If God, in His perfect will and perfect plan, allowed Jesus, his perfect, sinless Son, to be mocked, beaten, abused, and ultimately killed in order to save us, why should we, imperfect, sinful, willful, disobedient human beings, expect that we won't have trials and tribulations as we follow His will?

He promised never to leave us.  He goes through everything with us, and I believe that He feels pain and sadness with us when we go through something difficult.  He shares our burdens and carries us through -- when we give Him our burdens and put our trust in Him!

But he's also promised to refine us and make us holy.
"...and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time."  (Dan. 11:35)
"...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  (Phil. 1:6)

There is an excerpt from a Max Lucado book "Come Thirsty" my Bible study group read last year.  Actually, I'd share the whole chapter if I could, but for the sake of keeping this relatively short:

"He authors all itineraries.  He knows what is best.  No struggle will come your way apart from his purpose, presence, and permission.  What encouragement this brings!  You are never the victim of nature or the prey of fate.  Chance is eliminated.  You are more than a weather vane whipped about by the winds of fortune.  Would God truly abandon you to the whims of drug-crazed thieves, greedy corporate raiders, or evil leaders?  Perish the thought!

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.  For I am the Lord your God.  (Isaiah 43:2-3)

We live beneath the protective palm of a sovereign King who superintends every circumstance of our lives and delights in doing us good.

Nothing comes your way that has not first passed through the filter of his love.  Margaret Clarkson, in her wonderfully titled book Grace Grows Best in Winter, wrote:
The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering human heart must cling.  The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident:  they may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God. . . . All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch His children unless He permits it.  God is the Lord of human history and the personal history of every member of his redeemed family.
Learn well the song of sovereignty:  I know God knows what's best.  Pray humbly the prayer of trust:  "I trust your lordship.  I belong to you.  Nothing comes to me that hasn't passed through you."

A word of caution:  the doctrine of sovereignty challenges us.  Study it gradually.  Don't share it capriciously.  When someone you love faces adversity, don't insensitively declare, "God is in control."  A cavalier tone can eclipse the right truth.  Be careful.

And be encouraged.  God's ways are always right.  They may not make sense to us.  They may be mysterious, inexplicable, difficult, and even painful.  But they are right."

Happy Thursday!  Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow's passage:  Isaiah 47-49; Romans 9:1-15.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday, September 28 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 43-44, Romans 8:1-21

Happy Wednesday!

I am going to start off blunt:
Some of the harshest people are Christians.  And we are usually the harshest on ourselves.  Would we ever think of saying some of the things we say to ourselves to others?

I can't work as fast as she does.
I didn't get as much done as she did.
She prays better than I do.
She reads the bible better than I do.
I can't believe I messed up again!
Why can't I seem to get it right?
I'm never going to be a good enough mom/friend/daughter/wife.
I'm not good enough.

We are so hard on ourselves.  And I hear people saying these things about themselves.  We would cringe if we heard someone saying this to someone else and yet we do it to ourselves.  I have to ask, would/does Jesus say these things to you?  No!  Absolutely not!  These are all lies from the enemy.

Romans 8:1 rings loudly here  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". Why are we beating ourselves up when Christ already paid that price for our sins? I believe the more we focus on a sin or shortcoming the likely we are to repeat it, because our eyes are on it. We are focusing on ourselves and our sin. But if we focus on grace and forgiveness, we are putting our eyes on Jesus. We all know people will walk and drive towards the things they are looking at. If we keep our eyes on what we want to become we will be more like it.

Remember that we have been set free from condemnation.  We live in liberty.  Live in the freedom of His grace.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 45-46, Romans 8:22-39

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday, September 27th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 41-42, Romans 7

I love this passage in our OT reading today....
I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:9b-10

Isn't that a beautiful promise?

Originally made to the Israelites, God's chosen people, this promise stands true for believers today. All believers are God's chosen people and we all share the responsibility to represent Him to the world. We cannot do it in our own strength, but thanks be to God who strengthens us, who helps us, who upholds us so that we do not need to fear or be dismayed. He is our God and He is with us always.

On to our Romans passage. I read John MacArthur's sermon, Understanding the Believer's Battle with Sin (Part 2), and it really helped me to understand this chapter better. I sometimes find Paul's way with words to be convoluted and I just can't figure out what he's saying. I found this quote, in particular, very helpful....

"...since the time of my salvation on, sin is alien, it is a foreign body, it is a virus that is attacking me." Paul is saying, in a sense, that sin is no longer the real me. He has been recreated into an incorruptible new creation, the new will never die, the new is above and beyond sin, it is the divine nature, it is an eternal seed that cannot sin. That is clear. Since that time, he says, this new life longs to do what is right, but there is an alien in me called sin which indwells me. This is the way to understand it. This is the way to view it. After salvation, the part of man where sin lies and resides is not in the new creation, the real self, the true you. But it is in you somewhere. Where is it? Verse 18, "It is my flesh." That's simply a word for my humanness. But even my humanity, in a sense, is alien to me. I now have an eternal life. This world is not my home. My home is in heaven. My name is there, my Father is there, my life is there. My life is hid with Christ in God, my heavenly life. And all of a sudden my humanity becomes alien. But my humanity, according to Galatians 5, is still producing things like verse 19, Galatians 5, "Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, dispute, dissension, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like these." Those are the kind of things that characterize people who aren't believers but they are still residual in an alien form in my new life. And that is why my salvation is not yet complete. I haven't had the redemption of my body, as we saw in Romans 8:23, so in verses 24 of Romans 8, "In hope we have been saved." We still have something to hope for. We are still persevering to that day when hope is realized.

So what we have is not reigning sin, but surviving sin. It is not consistent with our new life, it is alien. (emphasis mine)

The truth is, as you grow more mature as a Christian, and as you become more aware of the holiness of God and how abhorrent sin is to Him, you will begin to sin less often, but you will hate it more. As we mature in Christ, we become more and more aware of the immense contrast between God's holiness (His absolute separation from anything sinful) and our own humanity still tainted by our struggle with sin.

I know one thing about the true children of God. Their inner person desires holiness and they will pursue an environment where they are aided in fulfilling those longings....True believers... admit their sin, confess their sin.... they grieve over their sin, they hate their sin. (emphasis mine)

We will have victory over sin in this life. As we pursue holiness and an environment that aids us in that pursuit, we will begin to sin less. But our awareness of our sin will be magnified as our awareness of God's holiness increases. We will hate our sin and our struggle with sin more and more. And we will continue to struggle with this until Christ returns, when our inner self, that new creation will finally be free from our sinful humanity and we will truly be redeemed. Thanks be to God for the hope that we have in Jesus.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 43-44, Romans 8:1-21

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday, Sept 26 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Isaiah 39-40, Romans 6
Happy Monday Everyone!

There's a lot to talk about here today. I want to start by looking at Hezekiah. I wanted to look a little deeper into the statement Hezekiah makes in Isaiah 39:8 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” 
In order to do that, I found a bit of insight into this situation with Hezekiah and the Babylonian visitors from John Schultz' Bible Commentaries. According to his commentaries here, "Merodach-Baladan that he was “a king of the Chaldeans of the house of Yakin, and was the most dangerous and inveterate foe of Sargon and his son Sennecherib, kings of Assyria, with whom he long and bitterly contested the possession of Babylon and the surrounding provinces."

To summarize the commentary further on, these men of Babylon most likely presented themselves as potential allies and were proposing rebellion together with Hezekiah. Proposing that the Babylonians unite with the Israelites to do great things. 

"No embassy, on the other hand,could be more welcome to the Jewish monarch who had the common enemy in his neighborhood, and who would be glad to see a division made in his favor by a rebellion in the very heart of that enemy’s kingdom. Hence arose that excessive attention which he paid to the envoys of the usurper, and which so offended Isaiah, or rather God, who, as a consequence, threatened the Babylonian captivity.”

This is where Hezekiah's pride came in along with God's frustration. Hezikiah was caught up in the power of man and forgot his greatest Ally - God. Isaiah approached him boldly to warn him of the dangers with his plan.

"But he was zealous of God’s honor, and anxious that Hezekiah should rely on no ‘arm of flesh,’ whether it were Egypt or Babylon. Such dependence would straiten God’s arm, and prevent him from giving the aid that he was otherwise prepared to give. The desire of the prophet is to warn the king of the danger which he runs by coquetting with human helpers.”

God's rebuke on Hezekiah for relying on the strong arm of man is to allow his people to fall victim to the Babylonians, the very people who presented as Allies. However, because Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, God's wrath did not come in the days of Hezekiah. And so he says "The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” 

The John Schulz commentary goes on to say, "The message of this chapter seems to be that, more than anyone else, Hezekiah was responsible for the tragedy of the Babylonian captivity that would be the end of the house of David in a physical sense. His repentance may have postponed the disaster, but it did not stop it."

So what can we learn from this? The decisions we make have long reaching effects. The choices we make in our own abilities have the potential to reach beyond our lifetime and into future generations. And, like Hezekiah - we can be relieved when we won't live out the effects, or we can prayerfully accept our consequences and pray protection on the future generations living out our consequenes.

And there are many more passages in this reading that could be quoted. A couple of my favorites:
Isaiah 40:8
 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:29-31
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 6:5-7
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 41-42, Romans 7

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday, September 25th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 37-38, Romans 5

I'm going back to the Hezekiah story again - for some reason I am just really drawn to this story and Hezekiah's demonstration of faith and the power of prayer.

Sennacherib continues to mock and blaspheme God, threatening King Hezekiah with utter destruction, fully confident in his power to do so.

But Hezekiah takes the very words of Sennacherib and literally lays them before God, giving it all to Him and praying for help for the sake of God's great name.

And this is the phrase that jumped out at me...

"Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word the Lord has spoken against him...He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city," declares the Lord. Isaiah 37:21b, 22a, 33-34 (emphasis mine)

Because one man prayed for the salvation of God's people and for the glory and victory of God, God answered by killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night and rescuing His people.

One man prayed, focusing on God's glory being spread throughout all the earth, and history was changed.

The power of prayer is incredible and the victory of God is wonderfully inevitable!

I also found a sermon that had some additional great insights into this passage....

what lesson is there in this story for us? What is it that we can learn about God?

Well, there are a lot of lessons in there.

  • For some of us, this story might be a reminder that God is God above all else. No power in heaven or on earth can stand up to him.
  • Or we might be reminded that God is trustworthy. He is the only person that we can put our faith in who will never let us down.
  • Maybe you’ve seen how God answers prayer. He hears us and acts on our behalf.
  • Or perhaps the thing that stuck out to you is that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
  • Or maybe God is speaking to you in a way that I haven’t even thought of.

But let me just share one thing with you that stood out to me. Look at verse 34. God says…

34 For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David,
I will defend this city and protect it.” 2 Kings 19:34

God acts for his own honor.

Everything He does, brings him Honor.

He uses the Assyrians to wipe out the ten tribes of Israel that have turned to evil – why? To bring Himself honor.

He wipes out 185,000 Assyrians in order to protect Jerusalem – why? To bring Himself honor.

When God He takes you through some difficult times in your life, He does it to bring Himself honor. When God brings great blessings into your life, He does it to bring Himself honor. When God acts, He does it to bring himself honor.

But that’s not the only thing that verse says. Look at it again… It says “For my own honor AND for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it.”

God also acts for sake of his servants. He’s not just some distant God that acts without any thought for His creation. On the contrary, God acts with you in mind. He acts on your behalf.

  • When God rescues Jerusalem, He does it for His glory, and also for the sake of his servant David.
  • When God brings miraculous healing to someone, He does it for His glory, and also for the sake of his servants.....
  • When God sent His Son, Jesus to died on a cross for the sins of the world, He did it for His glory, and also for the sake of you and I.

It is incredible to have the God of the universe – Creator of all things – the Only Living God, to care about you and I and to act on our behalf.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 39-40, Romans 6

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday, September 24th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 34-36, Romans 4

Sorry for the late post today. Yesterday was just crazy and this morning I ran my first 10k! But anyway, on to today's passage....

The first chapter in our Isaiah passage is a chapter of judgment and the next is a chapter of the joy and redemption believers can look forward to (with some really beautiful imagery) and then the last chapter describes for us, once again, the Assyrian threat to Jerusalem.

One part of this chapter I noticed in a way I haven't before....
The field commander is threatening....
And if you say to me, "We are depending on the Lord our God" - isn't he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, "You must worship before this altar?" Isaiah 36:7
From my Life Application Bible...
The field commander from Assyria claimed that Hezekiah had insulted God by tearing down his altars and making the people worship only in Jerusalem. But Hezekiah's reform sought to eliminate idol worship (which occurred mainly on high hills) so that the people worshiped only the true God. Either the Assyrians didn't know about the religion of the true God, or they wanted to deceive the people into thinking they had angered a powerful god.

In the same way, Satan tries to confuse or deceive us. People don't necessarily need to be sinful to be ineffective for God; they need only be confused about what God wants. To avoid Satan's deceit, study God's Word carefully and regularly. When you know what God says, you will not fall for Satan's lies. (emphasis mine)
I don't want to be confused about what God wants. I am thankful for this blog because it is a constant encouragement to me to continue to study God's Word in order to be able to be discerning and recognize Satan's lies and deceit for what they are.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 37-38, Romans 5

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday, September 23 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 32-33; Romans 3.

I really had trouble knowing what to write about today.

I listened to a John MacArthur sermon on Romans 3 (there were FAR too many to choose from!), but I had a lot of trouble concentrating for some reason. Or maybe it was just too complicated to absorb while washing, peeling, chopping, and blanching carrots!

He did make one point that I found interesting given all the talk of obedience we've had here lately. He says:

If we cannot be saved by keeping in our flesh the law of God, does that mean that we are under no obligation anymore to pay attention to the law? The answer is “God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” That when a person becomes redeemed, there is never a separation between grace and law? And that is a major fallacy in the thinking of many people. They want to so purify grace that they make salvation all of grace and no responsibility or obligation whatsoever. And this is an effort to maintain what some have chosen to call super-grace. But grace and gracious salvation never makes null and void the law but rather establishes the law. Now that statement has all kinds of interpretive ramifications, but just to focus on one--becoming a Christian by grace does not remove from us the obligation to obey God. All Paul is saying is you cannot save yourself by your good works, he is not saying therefore give up and never bother with them. He is saying - when you come to Christ and are justified, and as we shall see later in this epistle, when you are implanted with the Holy Spirit, He then can produce in you those good works, yes, He will produce in you those good works and you will even establish the law or fulfill it.

And it’s very important, I think, that we understand this. When people want ... now listen carefully to this thought because it’s really the hook to hang the whole deal on tonight ... when people want to separate grace from law altogether, the logical step that follows that is to separate the Savior-hood of Christ from His Lordship. And so, they will affirm that Jesus Christ is Savior and receive purely and only as Savior, and then there’s no other thing required for salvation and hopefully at a later time, you’ll acknowledge Him as Lord and get with the issue of obedience, that is not germane to salvation. Now this is an artificial dichotomy. It does not belong there. It is not biblical. It is an effort to maintain pure grace. But I think it is an ill-advised effort. And so, we have people today who tell us all you have to do is receive Jesus as Savior, and that’s it. There doesn’t have to be any manifest change in your life.

...Now this is not adding a 'works' to salvation, it is a recognition of who He is. In Acts 2:36 at the first sermon preached by Peter there in the birth of the church, after the Holy Spirit had descended upon them, he says: “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for sure that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ.” He is Lord. And that is a biblical affirmation that cannot be denied. And the word “Lord” there, by the way, that’s a quote out of Psalm 110:1 and the word used there is adon, adoni, which means “sovereign ruler.” Again and again, Christ is designated as sovereign ruler. First Corinthians 12:3 uses that same idea, it says that “No man speaking, by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed, and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” Now what’s important about that verse is that’s talking about salvation. Nobody can be saved except through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Nobody can make the proper insight into who Christ is except by the Holy Spirit. Nobody will truly understand Jesus except by the Holy Spirit. And when the Spirit does His work, he will say: “Jesus is the Lord.” And so, there is no reason to dichotomize the saving work of Christ from His Lordship, you do disservice to His person and you miss the message of true salvation. There’s no way in the Bible that you could ever separate; mark this, faith from obedience. Why in Romans chapter 1 verse 5 it says: “We have received grace and apostleship,” listen to this phrase, “for obedience to the faith among all nations.”

In other words, he says as an Apostle, we are proclaiming to the nations the obedience of faith. There’s no such thing as a faith that has no obedience. There’s no such thing as a salvation that does not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (Emphasis added)

So obedience to the law of God isn't something that just gradually comes IN ADDITION to salvation; it's INTRINSIC to true salvation. Not sure I've ever thought about it one way or the other. How about you?

Tomorrow's passages: Isaiah 34-36, Romans 4

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday, September 22 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 30-31; Romans 2.

I'm going to focus on the OT passage today, specifically Isaiah 30:9-11:

9 For these are rebellious people, deceitful children,
   children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction.
10 They say to the seers,
   “See no more visions!”
and to the prophets,
   “Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
   prophesy illusions.
11 Leave this way,
   get off this path,
and stop confronting us
   with the Holy One of Israel!”

Does anyone else see the present in these verses?  Many people don't see or want to see the truth of any difficult subject.  God.  Religion.  Politics.  Abortion.  War.  Homosexuality.  Drug abuse.  Casual sex.  Obesity.  Health food.  Animal "rights".  All is perception.  "How can we spin this?" - In other words, make it sound better or different or basically Febreze the manure?  We do not wish to hear this, so we will pretend it does not exist.  Then there are those who are pushy and confrontational about issues, but present them from such a skewed viewpoint as to be completely misleading.  They say they are revealing the truth, but are presenting such a one-sided argument that the truth is nowhere to be found.

Does anyone else, particularly as a parent, find this a little frightening?  It's not too hard right now to teach our children the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie.  My children, anyway, are young enough that they aren't capable of thinking about grey areas yet.  Everything is still black or white to them.  But what about as they get older?  How do we teach them to discern what is true and what is BS?  A few strides in the right direction would be by teaching them the Bible, encouraging them to memorize verses, and somehow conveying to them the importance of reading it for themselves on a regular basis.  Oh, how hypocritical I feel as I type that!  I struggled all my life with reading the Bible for myself on a regular basis.  I memorized a whole bunch of verses, portions of many of which I can still remember, but I am absolutely dreadful with references.  Thank goodness for Google!

And so, I am thankful again for this blog and the accountability I have found here, and I will once again resolve to read to my children from the Bible as often as possible.  I do the children's story at church about once a month, and so often I find myself choosing a subject that applies to me and the congregation in general, not just the children!  

Anyway, I digress.  One more thing stood out to me today from the Romans passage.

Romans 2:13:  For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Back to obedience, like we talked about last week!  We can read the Bible every day of the week and go to church twice on Sundays, but only when we obey are we declared righteous in God's sight.  Obey.  Obey.  Obey.  Hmmm... theme for my next children's story?  Could be!

Have a wonderful Thursday and a great weekend.

Tomorrow's passage:  Isaiah 32-33; Romans 3.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday, September 21 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 28-29, Romans 1

Good morning!

Ah, Romans, I love Paul's letters, although I don't always understand everything he's saying, there is a strange draw for me to the epistles.

I gained a greater understanding to this text:
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Now verse 20 I understood.  God has revealed Himself through nature and creation in general.  And I do believe that's true.  Take a look at the human body, the fact that it has the ability to heal, reproduce, learn and so much more.  Look at nature and the beauty contained there.  All of these things and more point to an intelligent God.  And because of that even if we aren't told about Jesus verbally, we have no excuse to not believe in Him.
It was verse 21 that the light went on.  I understand now why people replace God with idols (either physical idols, or things put in the place of God).  God has revealed Himself to us.  He has answered a need that we have in our beings, to know and be known by God.  But, we in our wickedness and unrighteousness, wanted to put the invisible God into something that we can touch, and see.  Maybe it was innocent at first.  A reminder that God is always there.  So they made something to just remind them.  But then the reminder became the substitute and it all went downhill from there.
I can see how it would happen.  While my grandmother was alive I had no need for a picture of her.  I saw her, I knew what she looked like.  Why do I need a picture?  But she's been dead over a year now and I miss her.  I'm starting to forget what she looked like.  And I have no pictures of her.  I'm wanting a picture.  Just a reminder.  But it certainly doesn't take the place of her.  It's not her.  It doesn't smell like peaches and I can't give it a hug.  It doesn't make mac 'n cheese and apple pies like grandma.  But it reminds me of all of those things.  I can see how easily it would be to replace God with something else.
It has been said that we have a God shaped hole in all of us.  And we seek to fill it with something.  It is a gaping vacuum and we need to fill it up.  Only God can completely fill it up.  And we know we need something in there.  People saw nature and saw those God-like qualities in the sunset and in a tree and mistook those creations to be God.
We got mixed up.
Father God thank you for your revelation to us in both nature and scripture.  Help us to place you first in our lives and in all things.  You are God, we are not.  Thank you for loving us.  Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 30-31, Romans 2

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday, September 20th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 26-27, Ephesians 6

I love how, in our NT passages recently, Paul has been telling us both what not to do, and then what to replace that with.

He doesn't just say "don't do this", he also adds "do this instead".

He instructs us not to lie, but to speak truthfully.
To avoid selfish anger (as the majority of our anger is), but to become righteously angry.
To stop stealing and begin working.
To get rid of unwholesome talk and rather build each other up with our words.
To get rid of bitterness, rage and malice, and rather be kind, compassionate and forgiving.
To flee from darkness and walk in the light.
To not get drunk, but rather be filled with the Spirit.

And then he goes on to describe how we can, practically, live in the light.

And it basically comes down to love.

No matter our situation - whether wives or husbands, children or parents, slaves or masters - we are to love each other and love God. We are to submit to each other, we are to consider each other's needs above our own.

And again, no matter our situation, we need to realize that we are all warriors in a battle and we need the armour of God to fight, every day of our lives.

Because these instructions do not come easily or naturally. It is not natural to consider other's above ourselves. It is not natural to love completely selflessly.

And Satan tries to discourage us, to remind us of our sinful nature, to give in to our sinful nature, to not bother to try because we know we will sometimes fail. If He can succeed in making us ineffective and impotent, he wins. And so we need to fight.

Fight with the belt of truth, with the breastplate of righteousness, with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

God is faithful.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

God is faithful and when we trust in Him, when we rely on Him, we will have peace. Especially when we realize that....
all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12b

God will enable us to love each other.
God will allow us to live in the light, to be holy as He is holy.
In God's power alone we run the race and we fight the good fight.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 28-29, Romans 1

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday, September 19 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is : Isaiah 23-25, Ephesians 5:17-33

Happy Monday Everyone!

Okay, how can I help but write about Ephesians 5:25-33? We're all familar with the jokes around "wives submit to your husbands", but what really resonated with me today is God's simple instruction for Christian Households. I believe that God created these simple instructions for a strong, healthy, loving marriage.

There are not hundreds of verses needed to explain the recipe for a successful marriage in God's eyes. It starts actually in a verse I have never noticed before in this passage.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

For Christ's glory shining through and reaching beyond our Christian homes, we must first EACH submit to the other.

Now, more specifically - what does this look like for the wife?
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Hmmmm, submit myself to my husband as I do the Lord... This is a double instruction for us wives. First, we submit to God, THEN submit to our husbands.

And - what does this look like for the husband?
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless

I don't know about you, but I think the Husbands got the taller order here. There is a whole lot of responsibility tied up in these verses!

It is so interesting that I got this passage on my day to blog. I struggled for years with this word - submit. With the concept of submitting to my husband. I even made sure the pastor at our wedding wouldn't use the word. Then, the stronger and more mature my marriage became, the more I grew up and realized the love that comes from mutual submission (and sometimes MY submission), I became ok with it. When you see the absolute love someone has for you and for doing what's in your best interest, the love, respect - and submission - is a natural by-product.

I know most of us have probably reached this realization in life, and this could be a redundant message, but with so many marriages in a sad state in today's world, I just want to encourage you to keep at it. Continue to submit your marriage to God and submit your love to each other.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 26-27, Ephesians 6

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday, September 18th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 20-22 - Ephesians 5:1-16

Our NT passage is a reminder, once again, that the way we act is a testimony to what we really believe.

If we are truly Christians, we will live differently than non-Christians.

If we truly recognize our own depravity and that our salvation comes by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ alone, then are lives will bear witness to that belief.

What we truly believe, dictates how we act. How we act, illuminates/betrays what's in our hearts.

If you are a new creature in Christ, act like one.

Yes, we will make mistakes. We are not perfect. But we are called to be.

So, how does that work?

By the strength of God alone. And I think that's why God commands us to be holy as He is holy, to be perfect as He is perfect. Because He knows we can't. So that we will know we can't. So we will know that we can do nothing without Him. So that we will rely on Him and Him alone. And He will be glorified.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday, September 17-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 17-19; Ephesians 4.

Scripture: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31 & 32 (ESV)

31-32Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.(The Message)

Observation: Forgiveness is commanded but what does that mean?

Application: This verse literally jumped off the page for me today. I've experienced something big in my life as of late that has been the cause of much stress. There has been anger, bitterness, and profane talk throughout the situation and it has caused me to step back from the situation. This retreat has been met with even more bitterness. If we are commanded to forgive, be kind, be tenderhearted, be gentle, and be sensitive what does this really mean? Does it mean I am personally responsible for resolving this tense situation? Does it mean that stepping back is the way to avoid the bitterness and anger? Does forgiveness require you to keep bitter and angry people in your life?

I love the Message's version that includes forgiving "quickly and thoroughly". Can forgiveness come quickly and throughly? What does forgiveness mean to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Prayer: Lord, You know all things. You know my situation and You know every situation that the people following this blog are in. Lord, Your word gives us direction. Please help us to understand the direction you want us to go and how to apply Your instructions to each situation in our lives. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 20-22 - Ephesians 5:1-16

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday, September 16 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 14-16; Ephesians 3.

I'm going to focus on the Old Testament again.  Is it just me, or do I do that a lot here??  I don't know about you, but somehow it feels like all I've really heard all my life is the New Testament, but participating in this blog has given me such a HUGE appreciation and excitement for the Old Testament!  It's like I was seeing a picture of God before ~ albeit a good picture ~ but without ever realizing I was only seeing part of the picture. And that the picture in its entirety would make so much more sense, be so much more complete and infinitely BETTER, than just the small portion I'd been looking at before.  I hope this blog is doing the same for everyone in some way, whether it's similar to my experience or not.  I hope we are excited about learning and loving the Holy Word of God more!

Anyway, movin' right along then...  it really struck me today how God's attitude towards Moab seems to have changed in the years between the Exodus and the Exile.  In the beginning of the story of the Jews, God strictly forbids them to have anything to do with Moab, the nation that resulted from Lot's incestuous relationship with his daughter after the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I couldn't find anywhere where God tells Israel to destroy Moab ~ they aren't included in the lists of nations within the land of Canaan ~ but it's clear from their very first encounter with Moab, that Moab is a bad influence.  In fact, because of their union with the Moabites, the Israelites are first accused of whoring. From what I can tell, all the other uses of this word until this point are warnings to God's people against prostituting themselves to other gods, but this is the first time the Bible says that is exactly what the Israelites were doing.

So God is not a fan of Moab and especially not after Moab came between God and His people.  God's jealous anger continues to burn against Moab, and after several hundred years, roughly 2/3 of the population is decimated after David's victory over them in battle.  But the worst is yet to come, promises God through Isaiah here in chapters 15 and 16.  Moab will be completely destroyed.

But in a twist that likely no one expected, God commands Judah to SHELTER THE REFUGEES, "the very few and feeble" survivors.  WHAT??  I bet no one in Judah saw that one coming!  God gives them the opportunity to extend His hands of mercy and grace to whoever survives and calls on them for help.  Okay, so maybe they would figure that's not so far-fetched, given the countless times God's shown mercy to them and forgiven them, but I bet they never expected God would actually mourn the devastation He promised to Moab!  Yet in 15:5, He says, "My heart cries out over Moab."  In 16:9 He says, "So I weep, as Jazer weeps, for the vines of Sibmah.  O Heshbon, O Eleahleh, I drench you with tears!" and then in v. 11, "My heart laments for Moab like a harp, my inmost being for Kir Hareseth."

You know, something I've been slowly coming to grips with is the possibility that not all of the individual, isolated events in God's plan for human history necessarily bring Him pleasure in their fulfillment.  I think this is fairly well-illustrated here.  He's promising destruction and yet it clearly doesn't bring Him joy.  I know we could parallel this with a parent disciplining a child; it's hard and we hate to do it, but we know it's for the child's good, they must be held accountable for their actions, yaddayaddayadda....  But Moab was never God's child.  God HATED Moab.  Yet here He weeps because He is crushing them.

I don't understand it.  But it supports the belief that everything that happens, the entire roadmap of human history, was laid down the way it was because it displays God's sovereignty, His holiness, His grace, His mercy, His power, His righteousness ~ His GLORY ~  the best possible way.  Because the end result will be greater glory than if He had chosen to do it differently.

I think it's safe to say that when we are grieved because of something painful in our lives, God grieves right along with us.  Our pain does not make Him happy, even though it was part of His design for our lives from before time began. But He has an advantage over us: the vantage point. We see only the present struggles and the lessons learned from the past.

He sees the incredible, awesome end result in the future ~ the ultimate glory of God that one day ALL will see the way He does.

Tomorrow's passages: Isaiah 17-19; Ephesians 4

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday, September 15 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 11-13; Ephesians 2.

Isaiah 12 is called Songs of Praise in my Bible.  Verse 2 - "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

Isaiah is speaking here about the Israelite people - the chosen people of God.  "He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth."  (11:12)

More about that in a minute.

Ephesians yesterday said "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory." (Eph 1:13-14)  In other words, the inheritance is no longer only for the Jews, but for everyone who believes.  We Gentiles now have hope where there was none before.  We can come to God.  We are "no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household," (Eph. 2:19)  Chapter 2 talks about the bondage to sin being broken because of God's mercy and grace.  We are saved by grace, by believing as it said in yesterday's verse,  and by the gift of God.  We have no way of getting there on our own.  We can't be good enough.  We can't "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps," as they say, and walk right up to the gates of Heaven.  It is a gift, given through sacrifice.

Here we come back to Isaiah.  God is now not only the salvation of the Jews, but of everyone who believes.  Now, through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus' blood, we are included in the inheritance.  We are part of His people, whom He will assemble from the four quarters of the earth.  We can sing together "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

I wonder, for those who have heard the Word of God but chosen not to believe, or for those who have never heard, what do they think they exist for?  Many of them probably don't see any meaning to life, which is why they pursue pleasure and wealth every minute of the day.  You can't store up treasures in Heaven if you don't believe Heaven exists.  It makes me sad.  Unfortunately, that doesn't often translate into me making efforts to tell them about Jesus.  I suppose I often assume they've already heard, so what more could I contribute if they've chosen not to believe?  Definitely an attitude I need to work on.

Anyway, have a fantastic Thursday and a wonderful weekend.  Trust, and don't be afraid!

 Tomorrow's passage:  Isaiah 14-16; Ephesians 3.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday, September 14 -Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Isaiah 9-10, Ephesians 1

It is my burden and that of others, for those who are lost.  I imagine it's like after you've just turned out the light and there is no other light to see.  It is dark.  You stretch out your hands and fingers to feel about for whatever you might run into.  You gingerly take each step, hoping to not stub your toe.  You are blind.  You can't get anything done, because you can't see anything to do anything!  This is really terrible if you have to go to the bathroom.  This is no way to live.  And it pains me to know that there are people living like this.  They are lying to others and themselves when they say they don't need that Jesus crap.  They are choosing to be blind.  Or there are those who just don't know there is a better way.  They don't know there is light, they don't know what it is like to live in the light.  To be free to move about, to not stub your toe, or worry about what you don't see.  Can you imagine?  There are people who just don't know about the light we know.  Amazing.

That's why I love the first couple of verses of Isaiah 9:
The people walking in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
   a light has dawned. 

"Living in the land of the shadow of death..."  That is such a strong expression of despair and hopelessness.  And without Christ we are hopeless.  We cannot see the wall on which the light switch is to turn on the light.  We have no idea on how to illumine our world.  Or we don't even know that there is something better.

This portion of scripture really reminded me of the hope we have in Christ.  And I love that God used the word 'dawn'.  The other day I was out at 5:30 am to run.  It's dark.  Very dark at that hour.  Things that I saw in the daylight were scary and different at that hour.  I saw things that made my heart beat faster than running up a hill.  Then felt ridiculous when I found out they were a bush or a shrub.  I took no light with me and trusted that once again, eventually, the sun would rise.  But it never just turns on like an overhead light.  Rather it creeps upon the land.  Slowly coloring the eastern sky with a slight pink and then spreading out upon the ground, trees and houses with it's light.  But it's gradual and you might miss it if you aren't looking for it.

And so it is with our walk with Christ.  The closer we get to Christ the more light dawns on us.  The more we know and see and are walking in liberty.  The more we begin to realize how precious our hope is.  Oh we know it at first, but then we begin to more fully absorb it.  It is true, our walk is a process, it is a dawning.

Father God I am truly grateful that you don't give up on us.  I am grateful that you are the author and perfecter of our faith.  You give us hope.  You give us light to walk in freedom.  Thank you for your provision.  Amen.  

 Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 11-13, Ephesians 2