Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday, June 30-by Pamela

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 19-23
Today's scripture focus is Matthew 2:13-23

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

The Return to Nazareth

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

The first thing I thought of when I read this passage is Joseph's amazing ability to willingly submit to God's calling. His first act of obedience and submission to God's plan was taking pregnant Mary as his wife even with all of the attention and (no doubt) gossip that such a union would have caused. Now Joseph again, drops everything and follows God's instructions. In. the. middle. of. the. night. He literally obeyed God's call at the moment he gave the word. Oh, to be able to fully submit as Joseph did to all God has called us to do.

I found this commentary, and I thought this was valuable insight into the choice to make Egypt the place of refuge:

Egypt had been a house of bondage to Israel, and particularly cruel to the infants of Israel; yet it is to be a place of refuge to the holy Child Jesus. God, when he pleases, can make the worst of places serve the best of purposes. This was a trial of the faith of Joseph and Mary. But their faith, being tried, was found firm. If we and our infants are at any time in trouble, let us remember the straits in which Christ was when an infant. 

I had never made this connection before. How true that not only was the choice to leave immediately a huge step of faith, but also the place they were led to. Can you imagine Joseph getting the news and thinking... "God want me to go where?!" But how true it is that it is when our faith is tested that it grows.

The same commentary adds:

Herod killed all the male children, not only in Bethlehem, but in all the villages of that city. Unbridled wrath, armed with an unlawful power, often carries men to absurd cruelties. It was no unrighteous thing with God to permit this; every life is forfeited to his justice as soon as it begins. The diseases and deaths of little children are proofs of original sin. But the murder of these infants was their martyrdom. How early did persecution against Christ and his kingdom begin! Herod now thought that he had baffled the Old Testament prophecies, and the efforts of the wise men in finding Christ; but whatever crafty, cruel devices are in men's hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand.

As a mother, I think of the unbearable grief of the mothers of all those sons who lost their lives because of Herod's fear.  Can you imagine? Having the law, demanding the death of your son, in place and being helpless to protect your family. I can think of children around the two year old age (my youngest nephew turns 1 next month!) and I can't even fathom the mass murder of these innocent children. I love that God's purpose prevails. Always. Through even the most awful of circumstance, God is there and His plan wins out.

The last part of this passage is also developed in the same commentary:

Egypt may serve to sojourn in, or take shelter in, for awhile, but not to abide in. Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to them he must return. Did we but look upon the world as our Egypt, the place of our bondage and banishment, and heaven only as our Canaan, our home, our rest, we should as readily arise and depart thither, when we are called for, as Joseph did out of Egypt. The family must settle in Galilee. Nazareth was a place held in bad esteem, and Christ was crucified with this accusation, Jesus the Nazarene. Wherever Providence allots the bounds of our habitation, we must expect to share the reproach of Christ; yet we may glory in being called by his name, sure that if we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified with him.
We serve an awesome God. He knows all. We need to obey Him and follow the course he has set for us. It involves submission and it won't be easy, but it will be worth it. 

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Matthew 3:1-12
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Oba ; Ps 82-83

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday, June 29th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18.
Today's scripture focus is Matthew 2:1-12.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

One more neat thing I learned from MacArthur about genealogies before moving on....
because Mark presents Him as servant Mark has no genealogy at all, because the lineage of a servant is irrelevant. So there is no genealogy at all in Mark. And Luke presents Him as the Son of man, and since Luke presents Him as the Son of man, Luke takes His genealogy all the way back and starts with Adam. Because Luke wants us to know that He is a man from the loins of the first man, Adam. And John, the fourth Gospel who presents Christ as the Son of God by-passes all human genealogy and simply says, "In the beginning was God, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And so he goes immediately back to eternity past and establishes the eternal es­sence of Christ. And you see that each of the Gospels in line with its emphasis matches its genealogy. And so we see in Matthew, He is the Messiah King, He is the anointed sovereign, and thus He has come to us through the line of David.

I had always kinda wondered why Mark and John didn't include genealogies - this definitely explains it!

Anyway, on to today's passage.

The fact that Jesus was a King was evident in the genealogy, specifically His lineage tracing back to King David.

If Jesus is a King, it also should be clear by people's response to Him. And so we find the story of how the wise men from the East came to find the King and worship Him.

The magi were, from the same MacArthur sermon...
very high ranking official priest type people among the Medes, much as the Levites were the priests among the Jews. They rose by virtue of their wisdom, by virtue of some occultic powers, by virtue of some astrological and astronomical ability that they had, they rose to places of being the advisors to the kings and the courts of Babylon, Persia and Media. So they were high ranking, they became so high ranking in fact, that no king ever took the throne of the Persian or Parthian Empire that wasn't trained in their laws, known as the laws of the Medes and the Persians, and no king ever took place that was not approved by them....It was their business to recognize and to coronate kings. They had been in the courts of kings for years and years and years, even centuries. And they were the official king makers of the east. And how significant it is that these official eastern king makers find their way to Bethlehem, indeed to honor the one who is born, the Lord Jesus Christ and to honor Him as King. 

The magi were king makers and they sought out the King of kings and worshiped Him, bringing Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold is a gift for a king, gold is associated with a king....

Frankincense speaks of deity. Incense was always offered to God, it was a fragrance that rose to God. In the Old Testament it was stored in the front of the temple, up in a special chamber and it was taken and added to the offerings, it was sprinkled so that the sweet savor would rise to God....

Myrrh is the gift for a mortal. It's a perfume, to make life a little less odorous, to make burial a little less repulsive. Myrrh was the gift for a mortal man, and He was a man. In fact myrrh was especially the gift for one who would die, He was a man and He would die, from the very beginning it was clear He would die...

 by the gold they say He's a King, and by the myrrh they say He's a man, and by the incense they say He's God. Now maybe they didn't know they said all that, but that's the beautiful symbolism of it.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Matthew 2:13-23
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Chronicles 19-23

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday, June 28th ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 20-21.
Today's scripture focus is  Matthew 1:18-25.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[b] —which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

I find a lot to admire in Joseph when I read passages like this.  Yes, it took a visit from an angel to convince Joseph, which some may feel means he didn't have trust or faith in his wife-to-be.  I think her story was farfetched enough that I would question his intelligence if he simply accepted it at face value!

I noticed these things that speak well of Joseph:

1.  The Bible calls Joseph a "righteous man".  This is not done lightly, I believe.  There aren't too many individuals in the Bible who are described as being legitimately righteous.  Joseph was a man of good character.  Of course, he would have to be if God chose him to care for the woman who would give birth to His son, and the son himself!

2.  He did not want Mary to be disgraced.  It would have been reasonable for him to be angry and upset and want her to face some sort of consequence for this presumed betrayal.  And yet, he cared enough to want her to be safe and not humiliated.

3.  Joseph had faith enough to believe the words of the angel and follow the instructions of his God.  He must have had at least some personal misgivings about the whole situation, but he was obedient.  He married Mary, he accepted the responsibility of raising a child that was not his own, and he obeyed the instructions of the angel with regard to Jesus' name.

4.  Joseph had respect enough for God and for Mary to wait to consummate their marriage until Jesus had been born.  I think this is pretty impressive.  Joseph is a guy, after all.  I don't know about you, but all the guys I know, Christian and non-Christian alike, are pretty concerned about their... physical needs, shall we say?

Anyway, that's what stood out to me today!  Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Matthew 2:1-12.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday, June 27th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 17-19
Today's scripture focus is Matthew 1:1-17

The Genealogy of Jesus
1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon: 
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud,
15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.

Matthew records the genealogy of Jesus down from King David all the way to His earthly adoptive father.  You'll notice the genealogy is very clear to name Joseph as Mary's husband (not Jesus' father), and that Mary bore Jesus - in the Greek "of whom" is feminine.  The genealogy needed to show Jesus' kingly ancestry through Joseph's side because kingship is always passed down on the father's side.  In Luke's genealogy it shows that Mary was also descended from the line of David in order to show that Jesus was a king by blood (Mary), not just lineage (Joseph).

From MacArthur's sermon, The Gracious King....

The first thing you notice in Matthew's Gospel is that Christ is presented as a King. There's just no question about it. The person of Jesus is painted in royal colors. His ancestry is traced from the royal line, and we'll see that tonight. His birth is dreaded by a rival king.
Wise men offer their royal gifts. His herald, John the Baptist declares that His Kingdom is at hand. Even in His temptation, you see the royalty of the person, because the temptation itself reaches a climax when He by Satan is offered the kingdoms of the world, and acknowledgment that He has a right to rule. His great message on the mount was the manifesto of the King setting forth the laws of the Kingdom. His miracles were His re..,were His royal credentials. His parables were called the mysteries of the Kingdom. He was hailed as the son of David. He claims the freedom to pay tribute to the kings of the earth for He Himself is a child of the King. He makes a royal entry into Jerusalem and claims sovereignty and tells concerning Himself the story of the marriage of a King's Son. And while facing the cross He predicted His future reign.
He claimed to have dominion over the angels, so that He could have called a legion of them to His defense. His last words are a kingly claim and a royal command as He says, ..All authority hath been given unto me, go ye therefore." And so Matthew presents Him as a King. A King revealed. And then the Book takes on another character, the King rejected. And as we study the Gospel of Matthew we're going to see that the people to whom He came, and for whom He sought submission, never gave it, and He was a King rejected. Matthew was the Gospel of rejection. No other Gospel has so much to say about His Kingliness, and no other Gospel has so much to say about His rejection as King. The shadow of rejection is never lifted from the Gospel of Matthew. Before He was born, his mother was in danger of being rejected by Joseph. At His birth, Jerusalem was troubled and Herod sought His life. On the plains of Bethlehem no angel choir sings but mothers are weeping in anguish as their babies are being slaughtered. He was hurried away for His life to live thirty years in the obscurity of a little no-account village called Nazareth. His forerunner was put in a dungeon and finally beheaded. He had nowhere to lay His own head, His parables indicate that His Kingdom would not be accepted in this age, and even in His death He said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" No penitent thief is praying, no word of human sympathy is spoken, those who pass by revile and mock, and they hire soldiers to lie even about His resurrection.
In no Gospel is the attack upon Christ as bitter as it is in Matthew, from the beginning to the end. So the King is revealed and the king is rejected. But Matthew also presents the fact, that the King is returning, and no other Gospel lays such emphasis on the second coming as the Gospel of Matthew. And so in a sense it is a Gospel of triumph.
When you get to chapter 24 and 25 and you hear the fact that He will come in the clouds with great glory, you know that He'll ultimately reign. And so it's a Gospel of the revelation of a King, the rejection of the King, and the return of the King.

The King His people rejected will return with glorious splendor!

To the Jewish people of that day, your lineage was everything.  They needed to know their pedigree for the exchange of land, for their tribal location, for priestly identity, for the royal line.  It was important.  Interesting note: the Jewish people of today can no longer trace their ancestry.  It would be impossible for a false Messiah to prove that their lineage traced back to David.  If Jesus is not the Messiah, no one else could lay a believable claim to it.

This lineage is also an incredible display of God's grace.

Included in this lineage are liars (Abraham, Isaac), prostitutes (Rahab, Tamar), adulterers (Bathsheba, David), gentiles (Ruth - not just a gentile, but a Moabitess!), twins conceived by incest (Perez and Zerah), the wisest man who ever lived but who squandered the throne through foolish living (Solomon), and on it goes.

This is the lineage of our gracious King.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Matthew 1:18-25
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Kings 20-21

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday, June 26th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 15:25-16:34, 2 Chronicles 17
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails —given by one Shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

One way to gain wisdom is by listening to wise teachers - those who are not only honest and transparent, but repentant.  Those who have lived through the experience you're needing wisdom for, those whose lives you admire, whose experiences and life lessons learned have resulted in the outcome you want in your life.

Another way we learn is through pain, hardship and correction given by our Shepherd, in love.

Books are wonderful sources of wisdom - but, just like who you listen to, you need to be careful who you read. Just because it's written down doesn't make it accurate or truthful.  And above all, read and study your Bible - the ultimate source of wisdom.

And then, Solomon's conclusion on the matter....
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Fearing God does mean to respect God.  But it also means exactly what it says - fear God!

Mark Driscoll had another fantastic sermon on this passage, Fear, Judgment and Obedience.  I'd encourage you to listen to the whole thing but here are some excerpts...

God is the kind of God that you truly don’t want to mess with...

Some people think that because they know some facts about God that they actually are in a right relationship with God, and that’s not the truth. You can know lots of things about God, but if you don’t fear God it doesn’t make a hill of beans. It doesn’t matter. It says in James that even the demons know there’s one God and they shudder. They have – good at facts and information. Here’s the bottom line. Some of you know about God. You don’t fear him at all, and I’ve told you repeatedly, there is a corresponding scale. You think highly of God and low of yourself; or you think high of yourself and low of God....

God looks at you, and you ignore him? He gives you a command and you give him the finger, as if you were peers? And we do it all the time. No fear of God at all and it’s bizarre, because you’d have to ignore huge sections of your Bible to not be afraid of God. You look in Genesis. Adam and Eve sinned. The wage for sin is death. Everyone dies. Oh. Move on to Noah. Only a few chapters in, God says, “I’m so sick of everyone, I’m flooding the earth. You’re all dying except for one family.”

Move a little further into Genesis, you hit Sodom and Gomorrah. “You’re all perverts, you’re all dead.” You keep going. Nations are slaughtered; people are killed, all the way into the Exodus, where all of a sudden the first born male child in every family that doesn’t worship God is slain by God in a single night. Some of you say, “Well, yeah, that was the Old Testament, but the New Testament, Jesus is nice."..... No, Jesus speaks of hell more than anybody in the whole Bible and Jesus says, “Don’t just fear people that can make your life cumbersome and difficult; Fear him who can take your life and throw you into hell.”...

You go to Revelation and there is a judgment where those who do not love God are sent forever into a torment called hell that is lonely and painful and unending. Some of you screw around with God, and you ignore all of the obvious consequences. You say, “But I’m a Christian – I’m a Christian.” Well, great. That’s what they thought in Corinth when they came up for communion and they had not confessed their sins to God and they hadn’t rightly feared God, and they died at communion. Can you even fathom what that would be like today? You come up, you do your intention, you take your bread, you put it in the drink and you die, and the next guy has to step over your corpse to take communion in hopes that the pile doesn’t continually grow up to the ceiling.

Or Ananias and Sapphira, who made a financial pledge to God, and in the book of Acts it says that when they lied and withhold some of that money that they had pledged to God, God killed them in church; and it says that great fear seized the whole church. No kidding. That was the best offering a church has ever had.... Some of you are saying, “Well, this is the hard message.” They’re all hard messages. I believe that hard words produce soft people. Soft words produce hard people. Some of you are hard people. You fear everything and anything but God. You fear the opinion of a boyfriend or girlfriend, of a mother or father, of a boss or friend. You fear failure.

You fear success. You fear appearances. You fear pleasures. Some of you freaking fear bugs. You’re scared of spiders and not God. I mean, do the math.... we all fall into this, and it’s a terrible and grievous sin. Hebrews tells us, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Fear God.... If you are deeply afraid of God, that changes how you live your life. I tell you this; I love my wife with all my heart. I love you. There are times, though, that what has kept me faithful to her and faithful to you is nothing less than a deep and profound fear of God. There are days when everyone in this room doesn’t feel like walking with God – doesn’t feel like obeying God.

Those are days where our rebellious nature comes up and we become fools running headlong towards sin and death and folly, and it is a fear of God that restrains us. It is a fear of God that keeps us. People who don’t fear God, eventually it shows up in very practical ways to their own demise. Some of you say, “Yeah, but I struggle with sin.” No, you don’t. You struggle with one thing: You have no idea who you’re dealing with. If you knew who you were dealing with, you would shape up far more quickly. It’s absolutely true. If you knew exactly how serious God is about sin, you would be more sober in your judgment and in your lifestyle. And I know I’m not supposed to say this. I know I’m supposed to tell you, “Look, God knows. God understands. You’re doing the best you can. You’ve made progress. There’s people worse than you.” It’s not true.

The truth is that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and fools despise wisdom, knowledge and discipline,” Proverbs 1:7. That’s the truth. Fools make excuses. Fools blame other people. Fools take their time, because they have no idea who they’re dealing with. Fear God. Fear God. If you don’t fear God, it’s because you haven’t read your Bible to see who you’re dealing with.
 “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” It’s about God, and it’s about what he says, and it’s about what he wants; and if you don’t like that, that’s because you think you’re God. It’s an old problem. Since our first parents in Genesis, God spoke, “Don’t do this.” That’s a command.

Our first parents said, “Well, we think otherwise” – sin. A seed of rebellion comes into our nature, and every one of us since comes to that place where we wanna be God. We wanna know good and evil. We wanna make good and evil. We wanna be the umpire who calls good and evil. We want to make the rules, and some of you do this. You say, “Well, I read the Bible.” Do you read it as commands or suggestions? Some of you say, “God’s a sky fairy who’s not paying attention, and the Bible is filled with suggestions.” Really? Really? Some of you would never say that, but that’s how you live so that’s how it is. Some of you don’t obey God. You know right now exactly what it is that you’re doing habitually that you’re not supposed to be. You know, and you don’t stop, and maybe like Solomon, you have a brilliant, air-tight, legal brief defense.

“I have a reason. I have a reason. I have a motive. I even have verse out of context. I have the whole thing buttoned up ready to go.” I’m sure that Solomon, as he was having sex with a thousand women – like some of you guys download that many photos on your computer – I’m sure that as he was drinking to the point of drunkenness and eating to the point of gluttony – and I’m sure that as he was gossiping and worshipping false gods and being a complete imbecile, I’m sure in his great brilliance as people confronted him, he was able to defend himself with an airtight case. I’ll tell you what; I don’t care how well you argue. I care how well you live, and I don’t care whether or not you are able to convince yourself or someone else, it is very simple to obey God. You need not be a genius to obey God, and when you obey God, you don’t need an enormous defense of your life and conduct....

You know how you stop doing something that you’re not supposed to be doing? Do you know how you stop? You stop. I’ve had a million conversations with guys who can’t keep their hands off their girlfriend. “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” Stop! I don’t care. “How?” Take a ball-pin hammer to your head. I don’t care. Stop. When Jesus says things like, “Go and sin no more,” he doesn’t follow it up with an enormous manual. Go and don’t do that. He’ll say it’s so complicated. It is – it’s incredibly complicated. No, it’s not. Sin is complicated.

Obedience, pretty straightforward, quite honestly. Love your wife – hmm. Respect your husband – hmm. Pay your bills. Read your Bible. Say your prayers – hmm. Even reading this verse – fear God and do what he says. Wonder what that means? Probably something like fear God and do what he says ...

God is smarter than we are.

God is also more loving than we are. God knows what happens when we sin better than we do, and when God gives us a command it’s like a parent giving an order to a child. It’s out of love and protection, and only a foolish and rebellious child and only a foolish and rebellious Christian would ignore the commands of a loving parent thinking that somehow they were wiser and better informed and more astute than their own loving parent. If you struggle with sin, you really struggle with fearing God, and that fear of God leads to a disobedience of God. It all comes back to a misunderstanding of God. That’s why you need not chase all your root issues – drugs, alcohol, gossip, covetousness, pride. Don’t chase all your effects. Stick the cause. The cause is, “I obviously don’t know who God is. Otherwise, I would respect him and I would obey him.”

And it’s back to relationship and trusting in the words of your dad....

Fear God. Obey God. God’s going to judge you...

Judgment for many means nothing because judgment is in this lifetime delayed. Peter tells us as much in the New Testament. He says that, “God is not slow as some of you would reckon him to be slow.” God is – what’s the word? Patient. Patient. See, because you sin and you don’t get instantaneous consequence, you think that judgment is not just coming but it is negated. That’s why when a guy puts his hands all over his girlfriend, his head doesn’t blow up, because God’s patient. When a husband is walking down the street, sees a hot woman, looks once, looks twice, his arm doesn’t fall off, because God is patient.

When a woman nags her husband, knows that she’s not supposed to nag him, and nags him again, she doesn’t explode, because God is patient. God is patient, but because he’s patient, some people think that he doesn’t care about sin and he doesn’t care about their lifestyle in the least. Nothing could be further from the truth. He cares immensely, and he tells us right here that he will bring what into judgment? Everything, whether hidden or known.
God will judge between those who are saved and those who are unsaved.  And those who have not been covered by the blood of Jesus, will go to hell.  That is the truth.

But Christians will also be judged.  There will be a judgment of works.

if you’re a Christian, your life matters, because God has good works prepared in advance for you to do; and you’re going to be judged as to whether or not you about those good works that he prepared in advance for you to do. This is in accordance with a story that Jesus tells in the New Testament where he says that there’s a master who has people who are working for him. He gives them responsibilities and duties. He departs for a while and he comes back to see if they’ve followed up on what it is that he had given them to do; and some were faithful and some were not faithful. Jesus is our master. He came. He saved us. He commissioned us into life with him. He’s going to come back one day and see what we’ve done with the talents and money and time that he’s afforded to us...

 some of you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come into your rest.” My life mattered? Yes. And some of you will hear, “I never knew you.” Be careful. Be intensely careful to work out your salvation with fear and some trembling. I want you to obey God. God is no one to play with. Everything counts....

If I don’t hammer the holiness and the majesty and the beauty and the magnificence and the weightiness of God when I say that God loves you, it doesn’t mean a thing.

It just sounds like yet another sentimental greeting card filled with mush, but to know that this God also is a loving God who loves people, now it truly means something....

you and I are enemies of God; and when God has chosen to love us, he has chosen to love that which is unlovely and make us lovely through his love....

And it says that God demonstrates his love for us in this, when we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us....

Obedience is an effect, not a cause. Here’s the cause, John 14:15. Jesus says, “If you love me” – you’ll what – “you’ll obey me. You’ll obey me.”

If you’re a parent, you know exactly how this works. Your goal is not to get your kids to be obedient. You’re goal is to get your kids to love you and love the Lord; and if they do, they’ll be obedient kids. God’s a great dad. Here’s what he wants from his kids: He wants them to love them in a way that is fearful and respectful and obedient. Why? Because he’s a good God, seeking to care for, protect and provide his kids. The way we get there is through repentance – turning from ourselves, turning to God; turning from folly, turning to wisdom; turning from sin, walking in obedience by grace. This stands in utter contrast to everything you’ve ever been taught. You have been taught the reason that things are hard is because you don’t love yourself enough. You don’t value yourself enough. You don’t esteem yourself enough. You don’t exalt yourself enough.

You worship yourself pretty good, but you gotta worship yourself better. You’re a pretty good god; you could be a better god, and the truth is, fear God, obey his commandments. This is the whole duty of man. He’s not kidding around. He’s patient today. Judgment is somewhere on your horizon. Take advantage of that grace.

Wow, I have learned so much from Ecclesiates. It is so much more than 12 chapters of "everything is meaningless" like I always thought.  I really liked Driscoll's explanation that meaningless is better translated vapour, as that makes the book make so much more sense.  Life is fleeting.  We need to accept the lot God's given us and enjoy it.  Live our lives.  Delighting in God. Fearing God.  Obeying God.  It really is that simple.

Tomorrow we start in Matthew!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Matthew 1:1-17
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Kings 17-19

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday, June 25th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 15:1-24, 2 Chronicles 13-16
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 12:6-8

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
or the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Everything is meaningless! ”

Before you break your spinal cord and die (silver cord is severed), before you take a blow to the head and die(golden bowl broken), before you have a heart attack and die (shattered pitcher), before your arteries corode and collapse (broken wheel at the well), before your body goes down to the grave while your spirit returns to God - remember Him.

More from Mark Driscoll's sermon, Threading the Needle.

“Meaningless, meaningless,” says the teacher. “Everything is meaningless.” That’s not a great translation.

The word there in your Hebrew text appears some 38 times in the book of Ecclesiastes. The word there is “Hebbel”. Oftentimes, particularly in the book of Psalms, it means “vapor” or “breath”. He’s not saying that life is without meaning, devoid of purpose. What he is saying is that life is a vapor. It moves quick. How many of you, on a cold morning, you get up. You go outside. You exhale. You see your breath, and then it’s gone. That’s a vapor. That’s your life. It goes quick. How many of you are at the place where, man, all of a sudden life has moved far more quickly than you were anticipating. Days have been fast. That’s what he’s saying. Urgency is of utmost importance. You’re gonna die. You’re in the process of dying every day. If you’re young, if you have life, if you have health, if you have breath, remember God. Delight in God. Enjoy God.

Pursue life with, in, through, for, to God,
so they don’t get at the end, as a decrepit falling apart, decayed, burned-out pervert like Solomon, having to write your biography and tell all your grandkids and great-grandkids, “Please, please, please do not walk in my steps. I was an idiot. Please use your days more wisely than me. If you have a wife, kiss her. If you have a steak, eat it. If you have some jogging shoes, run in them, because the days are few and the time moves fast.” That’s why you’re here. Some of you are here because you have forgotten God. So consumed with all of the stuff of life, that you have forgotten through whose hand this life has come. The reason we gather together in church is to heed Solomon’s words and to remember our Creator – to remember him.

As we hear this, we realize that we all, in various ways, have fallen into folly and sin and rebellion. The good news is this: not only did your Creator make you, but your Creator will also remake you. Here’s the beauty of it all. We always call you to repentance in this church. It is particularly fitting for this book of your Bible, because this is a book of repentance. This is an old man who has blown it hardily, telling it like it is. He is repenting and we should follow in his example. We should – as he has done, name our folly, our sin, our stupidity, how we waste our time not delighting in God and subsequently pursuing things that we just shouldn’t be giving our time, energy, and attention to, and repentance for us means naming those things and bringing them to God.

And the beauty of God is this: some of you today may feel very, very, very far from God. Okay, and that’s what sin does. Sin separates us from God, and there is great distance between us and God, but here’s the good news. This is the beauty of it all. Everyone in this room is very far from God because of sin, but, also, everyone in this room is equally close to God, because do you know what closes the gap between you and God is the love of God. That’s the beauty. That’s the beauty of the truth, that you are close to God because he loves you. You need not repent, turn around, and then labor mightily for a great multitude of years to draw near to God. God loves you and he has been pursuing you, and he is right on your heels. As soon as you stop sinning, turn around – which is your act of repentance, you will find that God is right there.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ecclesiastes 12:9-14
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Kings 15:25-16:34, 2 Chronicles 17

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday, June 24th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 10-12
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 12:1-5

12 Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when men rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint; 
when men are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags himself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then man goes to his eternal home 
    and mourners go about the streets.

Sorry for the late posts and that they've been mostly quote-filled instead of my own thoughts - we moved on Friday and it's been rather hectic around here!

Remember your Creator  in the days of your youth,
God created the entire world just by using His voice. But He used His very hands to create humanity, and He breathed life into us - very personal. And then He gave us creation, to be enjoyed.

More from Mark Driscoll's sermon, Threading the Needle....
He is our Creator, and what he’s saying is this, that young people curiously are the most likely to forget God. They get so busy enjoying the majesty of this creation and the youthfulness of their spirit and their life that they forget God altogether, and it’s interesting, because if you forget your Creator in the days of your youth, what that leads to is misery down the road. When you are young, that’s when you decide: “Will I go to college? Will I not go to college? What will I do for a career? What will I not do for a career? Who will I marry or not marry?”

What you’re doing is you’re setting a life course at a young age, and if you forget your Creator at that time, wrong career choice; wrong educational tract; the wrong relationship. Sexual activity, alcohol abuse, drug abuse: all of these vexing problems of health and spirit that he mentioned. You start abusing your body. You start abusing your health. You start abusing your spirit. If you forget your Creator in the days of your youth, you’re destroying all of the days that are going to follow....

we live in a culture that doesn’t believe in truth. It doesn’t believe in God. It doesn’t believe that there is cause-and-effect between wisdom and joy...

If people remembered their Creator in the days of their youth, they wouldn’t need the number of police, the number of drug-rehabilitation counselors, the number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, the number of Child Protective Agency coordinators. They wouldn’t need incarceration, threat of laws, because rather than just being managed, they would be redeemed. They’d be different people. Solomon’s lived this way. God gave him this insight of wisdom, and, in a great irony, he lived as a fool. Now he’s an old man that’s what? He forgot his Creator in the days of his youth. It started off very, very subtly. He loved the Lord. He walked with the Lord. God told him he could have anything that he wanted. He requested wisdom. God was so pleased that he gave him wisdom and power and wealth.

Next thing you know, he sees a few hot young ladies that don’t worship the same god. Starts chasing them. He’s no longer delighting in God, but he’s still pursuing the desires of his heart, and now they’re crooked and astray. Before you know it, he’s having sex with 1,000 women. Before you know it, he’s worshipping a false god. Some of the religions of the women that he marries go so far as to perform child sacrifice, and it is possible that a man who wrote a few books of the Bible and was the wisest man, next to Jesus, who has ever lived, ends up murdering children.

You say, “Well how in the world do you start as the son of David, writing the Bible, making the temple in which God comes down to dwell and be with his people? How do you get to the place where you’re having sex with 1,000 women and you’re killing babies and you’re worshipping false gods?” Well, it’s pretty easy. Somewhere in that journey – forget your Creator. Just forget him. Just live your life. Don’t pick up your Bible. Don’t pray. Don’t confess your sins. Don’t hang out with God’s people. Just forget him, and I’m sure that, for Solomon, this was a very gradual decline. It’s just slouching toward folly. That’s why it’s so important for you – particularly if you are young – to not just know God, but continually remember him, every day, ever circumstance.

Delighting in him. Enjoying him, so that as you live your life and pursue your passions, you’re doing so according to God’s will for you. ...

Søren Kierkegaard, the great philosopher, he says that, “We should live life forward, after we define it backward.” We should know that we’re going to God, and we should live in his direction.

If you’re young and you don’t read your Bible, if you’re young and you don’t confess your sin, if you’re young and you don’t pray to God, you are setting in pattern a habit that is going to continually draw you further from God, as it did Solomon. It’s going to destroy your life.

 in the days of your youth
Start with your kids. Start with your kids when they’re really little. Paul tells Timothy that, “The Scriptures you have known from infancy have made you wise unto salvation.” Infancy: little kids. Teach kids not just to know God, but to love him. Not just to obey God, but to enjoy him, and if they enjoy God and they love God, they will obey God. Have them remember their Creator when they’re real little and encourage them to keep remembering their Creator.

before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;  when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred.

The time will come, and it will come quickly, when we will be old.  Our limbs will tremble, we will stoop, we will lose our teeth, we will lose our eyesight, our lips will purse up around our missing teeth, we'll start waking up really early in the morning, we'll be afraid of heights or falling, and the dangers of going out, our hair will grow white, we'll have a hard time getting around, and we're going to lose our sexual desire.  We're going to get old.  

And then?
Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.
And then we die and people mourn.

Remember our Creator in the days of our youth.  Don't get so busy that we forget all about God and spend the rest of our lives wasting it away.  Until we're old and gray and it's too late to go back and change anything.  

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ecclesiastes 12:6-8
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 Kings 15:1-24, 2 Chronicles 13-16

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday, June 23rd

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 12-14
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 11:7-10

7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.  But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many.  Everything to come is meaningless.
9 Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things
God will bring you to judgment.  

10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.

Mark Driscoll had a fabulous sermon on this passage called Threading the Needle.

“Light is sweet and it pleases the eye to see the Sun. However many years the man may live, let him enjoy them all.”
What he’s saying is this — particularly to those of you that are young. You don’t know how many years you have. You can’t decide whether or not you will be long or short on the Earth, because ultimately your days are in the hand of God. What you do have jurisdiction over however, is the quality of those days. You’re days may be short, but they can full. You’re days may be many and they can be full. But ultimately God knows the number of your days, but you have the possibility of enjoying every one of those days that God would give you.

But let him remember the days of darkness
You’re gonna get old.

“For there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy young man while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.” 
This is his admonition to those of you that are young...The purpose of your life, according to this, is enjoyment. Enjoy your life with God. Enjoy your days with God. Enjoy opportunities in every day of life that God would give you. Solomon learned this from his father, David, who also wrote the book of Psalms, and in Psalms Chapter 16, Verse 11, he tells us that, “Joy comes from the right hand of God.” That’s where joy comes from. As well, he learned but ignored in Psalm chapter 37, Verse 4 from his father that we should, “Delight ourselves in the Lord and that he will give us the desires of our heart.” That’s the goal of our life. Now some of you read that and you say, “Okay that means, if I love God, I get everything I want. I’ll be attractive and tall. I’ll have a new car. I’ll be smart. Handsome. Rich.” No, that’s not what it means.

What it means is that as you delight in God, as you enjoy God, as you walk closely with God through Jesus Christ, God changes your desires. Often times the reason that we lack joy is because we’re pursuing the wrong things, because we have the wrong desires, because we’ve been delighting in the wrong things. Ultimately, you become like that which you worship. Whatever you enjoy most is going to be that which causes your desires to exist. If you worship sexuality, you will become perverted. Your desires will be crooked. If you worship money, you will be greedy — an idolatress — and your desires will be pursuing of things rather than God. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” he says, “And God will give you the desires of your heart.”...As you and I learn to delight in God, to be satisfied with God, to enjoy God, God gives us desires, passions, profound convictions, and he compels us to live our lives freely and passionately in pursuit of those things....Our problem is that we spend a lot of our days pursuing things without previously drawing near to God to make sure that those desires are his desires for us, and for many of you, you struggle with this question. “Well, I’m thinking about this job, or this relationship. I’m thinking about this ministry. I’m thinking about this opportunity, and I don’t know if this is my will or God’s will.” That’s the wrong question. If you love God, enjoy God, walk with God, delight in God, God will take his will, he will place that in your heart so that your will and God’s will are indeed the exact same thing. So there is no more God’s will and my will and I’m torn between doing what I want to do and doing what God wants me to do.

If you’re a person who struggles with obedience to God, if you are person who struggles with trusting that what God has for you is indeed good, your problem is not with God’s will, it truly is with God. If you knew God, if you enjoyed God, if you knew what God intended and desired and his love for you, then you would passionately pursue exactly what he would intend for you to pursue....

If you’re not sure, when you go to make a major life decision, “Who should I marry? Where should I go to school? Where should I work? What church should I attend? What ministry should I involve myself in?” Don’t try and find God’s will. Don’t. Try and find God. If you find God, he will give you a desire, and then you can pursue it freely and passionately knowing that you’re in his will because his will is now your will, and the two of you are like-minded and in accord.

Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see
If you’re delighting in God, then the things that you see won’t all entice you, only those things that are pleasing the Lord.

but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.  
Passion that’s tethered to wisdom leads to the kind of life that is enjoyable and pleases God....Read your Bible, pray, talk to the Lord. Listen to the Lord. Learn from the Lord. Enjoy the Lord, and as you do, you will find that what births in you is passion, creativity, vision, joy and excitement and a fear of God that keeps you from being an idiot. And just running off and sinning like crazy, and ruining the few days that God would give you. So here’s what we need to do: enjoy God.

So then, banish anxiety from your heart
One of the most profound and pronounced problems with young people today is just that: depression and anxiety....Now I’m not discounting that for some people there is a legitimate medical cause for certain problems, like depression....If you don’t enjoy God, if you don’t see life as a gift from God, if you don’t know that your desires are from God, if you don’t pursue your life with simultaneous passion and fear of God, what you end up being is anxious, because you’re not sure if what you’re doing is correct or right, or depressed – worried that the life that you’re leading is fruitless and worthless. Depression is not always a medical or psychological issue. Sometimes it is an intensely spiritual issue. Young people need to learn to banish anxiety from their heart. Enjoy God. Fear God. Walk with God. Draw near to God, so that their heart is renewed and redeemed, and so that their desires are renewed and redeemed. I would submit this to you: if you struggle with anxiety, if you suffer with depressions, make sure that first things are first, and that you’re enjoying God.  That the desires that you are pursuing are from God. That you are doing so with a reverence of God, and with a passion that is Christ-like, otherwise you’ll be sad all the time.

and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.
meaning they fade quickly. He’s just talked about emotional health: anxiety and heart. Now he’s talking about physical health. Some of you who are young are very active and you don’t take good care of your body...Be careful with your health. You don’t wanna be this falling apart, decrepit, limping, old person. Be careful of your emotional health. Be careful for your physical heath: diet, exercise, nutrition. Buckle up. Wear a helmet.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ecclesiastes 12:1-5
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Chronicles 10-12

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday, June 22nd

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Proverbs 30-31
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

11 Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.
2 Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
3 If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie. 
4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

When we have enough, we should share with those in need.  We should help each other out. Sooner or later it'll likely be us needing help from someone. When we're generous with others, people reciprocate.  When we're selfish and hoard all our money, there's not going to be anyone willing to lend a hand when we need it. (v1-2)

There are a lot of things that go on that we simply don't understand.  God works in ways we can't even begin to fathom.  (v3-5)

But in the meantime, we need to do our part.  (v6) We need to work hard, we need to have a plan, we need to enjoy our lives, we need to pursue our options - and through it all, trust that God will show up in our lives exactly on His schedule.  Sometimes unexpected, sometimes not, but always in His time according to His plan.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ecclesiastes 11:7-10
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Kings 12-14