Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday, December 31st ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: Malachi 3-4
Today's scripture focus passage: Psalm 3 ~ A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
"There is no deliverance for him in God."     Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me
my glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the LORD with my voice,
and He answered me from His holy mountain.     Selah
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!
for you have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
Your blessing be upon your people!     Selah

I love how David's very normal, human emotions come out in so many of his Psalms.  He isn't too proud to admit he's scared or sad or overwhelmed.  Most of all, I love how virtually all his Psalms ~ no matter how desperate he sounds in the beginning ~ conclude with statements of praise and adoration.  This one is no different.

And we find him in a position that many Christians find themselves in: the world trying to convince us in some way, shape, or form, that belief in God isn't actually good for anything.  And as we all know, either from personal experience or from watching the lives of others, faith in God doesn't immunize us against trouble, pain, poverty, illness, stress... the bad things in life.  In fact, God very seldom plucks us out of the circumstances that cause suffering.

Without realizing it, I think a lot of us Western Christians have fallen for a more insidious version of the "health & wealth gospel" because we tend to believe OUR suffering is outside of God's will.  We forget that suffering isn't just the starving masses in poor countries.  It isn't just mistreated, imprisoned Christians in Communist or Islamic countries.  We forget suffering for His sake includes ALL forms of suffering, whether being tortured for a faith in Him in a filthy prison cell, or dealing with the stress of a precarious relationship with a co-worker.  Whether struggling to stay alive in the poorest conditions imaginable, or struggling to handle a defiant, rebellious teenager.  Suffering for His sake isn't a certain type of suffering, it's a certain attitude in suffering.

Most often, we seek the shortest, quickest, easiest way out.  Whenever it is humanly possible to alleviate our physical, marital, fiscal, emotional, relational, or legal discomfort ~ whatever the cause(s) may be ~ we assume God never intended for us to suffer through that particular experience.

But David rallies his mental faculties and reminds himself that even though he might have nothing else going for him, he has God, who keeps his soul secure.  We need to remind ourselves of this, too.  And like David, we need to make this apparent to those around us.  Yes, David prays for his many difficult circumstances to be lifted, but in each and every Psalm where the tone suddenly changes, there's a tacit statement that is articulated so well by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Book of Daniel: If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (3:17-18)

Of course those three young captives prayed for deliverance.  And they knew their God most certainly could deliver.  They also knew He might be calling them to this suffering.  But whether He removed them from the situation or had them go through it, their opinions and beliefs about who and what He is were going to remain unshaken.

Without knowing the Messiah or how, exactly, His suffering would be for mankind's eternal joy, these men ~ David and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as well ~ knew their willingness to endure suffering was the best option for displaying the glory of God.

Do we face the challenges, struggles, hardships ~ even minor annoyances ~ with a view of the Gospel in mind?  Is the quickest way out of hardship the best way for us to display His glory to the world?  Let's not forget that struggles generally present a much better opportunity than our times of ease do to demonstrate why faith in God IS beneficial. What if praising Him and remaining steadfast in our belief in Him and His Word despite our circumstances is the best possible way for those around us to see and get to know Him?  Can we, like David, counsel our hearts so that we come to the point where we can endure and even persevere with peace, joy, and contentment because that's how others will best see the greatness of God even though right now, it seems impossible?

God says He knows the plans He has for us.  He never promises those plans will be for our comfort and ease.  They are for our holiness and sanctification; they are for others to see and hear Him through our lives, the good parts and the bad.  But He promises His plans for us in eternity will exceed any expectations or dreams our minds can conceive.

And that is why David could sleep at night and wake refreshed though his life seemed to be falling apart around him.  That is why he could rejoice in God, his Deliverer, even though the situation wasn't resolved.  He knew struggles are temporary; salvation is eternal.

What a comforting, uplifting thought as we reflect on 2013 and look ahead to 2014.  Happy New Year, my friends!  May it be a year of continued growth, and deeper understanding and appreciation of God, our Rock and our Redeemer, through whatever the coming seasons bring.


Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday, December 30- Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 22, Malachi 1-2
Today's scripture focus is Psalm 2

Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations conspire[a]
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron[b];
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The first thing that struck me about today's passage was the first 3 verses:
1 Why do the nations conspire[a]
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

It makes me think about how true these verses are even today. I guess you could think of nations that have banned Christianity first but not it's not just in those places. I think about the rise of blatant sinful behaviour becoming so common that many people don't even see their lifestyle as sinful. What we see in the media, read in the newspapers, and even hear from our kids about what is happening in their school, we know that there is a plot against what God has commanded us to do in the bible. Persecution and disdain for following God is what you can expect as the "nations conspire" against Christianity.

I was thinking specifically about the "Duck Dynasty" situation that has been in the news lately. Now truthfully, I have never watched the show but from what I have gathered from reading and hearing about on the news and on social media is that one of the show's characters in not allowed on the show any more because of his stand for what the Bible says about the homosexual lifestyle. What I find interesting is that while, of course, there is a public outcry against anyone who would speak against people who declare themselves to be gay, a number of people actually do not condemn the actor for his words and actions and believe he has the right to stand up for his beliefs too. Is this what this verse means when "peoples plot in vain" and that God uses many different situations to bring people to him and maybe this is just another one of these ways. What I do know is that God already knows what the future holds and that the battle over sin has already been won.

We just finished the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The One who came to be the Saviour of the world. The One who died for us...for our sin....for all sin. Sometimes, it is difficult for me to wrap my head around that. It seems so surreal when you actually stop and think about what it all means. I think about the advent season and the hope we have, the love we were shown, the joy we can experience, and the peace we know because of Jesus.

10Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

We don't know what tomorrow will bring ... we don't know what attack we will face on our faith, what the "nations will conspire against us" or forces will attempt to "break our chains" ...but God does.

"Blessed are all who take refuge in him"

The reality is that we don't have to worry about that. We can take refuge in the One that created it all. In Him, we are saved from it all.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Psalm 3
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Malachi 3-4

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday, 27 December 2013 ~ Roxie

Friday's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 21; Zechariah 9, 10
Today's scripture focus is Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

I must apologize for my forgetfulness. I only realized after noon today (Saturday), that it WAS Saturday and my Friday to post had slipped away without my noticing.

I will not apologize, however, for my love of poetry; my love of word pictures and comparisons, of which this Psalm is packed FULL!!!

Just read the first line again…see it in your mind:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. Walk, stand, sit. Each of us does these things daily. These are ordinary things, mundane things, things done without much thought for the majority of us, anyway. Blessed are those who do not allow the ordinariness of life to to bring them down to the level of those who gossip and complain and mock - sinful distractions from true delight. Blessed are those who can look past negative distractions to find delight in the law of the LORD…

Now I don't want to get into a big debate about what it means that the law was abolished by Jesus' death and resurrection. My heart, when thinking upon the law of the LORD understands it best when hearing the reply of Jesus as found in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (emphasis mine)

"…and on his law he meditates day and night"

Love. We are to meditate on love day and night.

Why, then, is it so easy to sink into the darkness, into the negativity that surrounds us in life even when we are surrounded by love? Why does the darkness distract so easily when the beauty of love shines so brightly?

How I long to be as the one this Psalm describes:

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers."

…like a tree planted by streams of water. Deep rooted with multiple streams of nourishing, life-giving water, ever ready to refresh and renew; strong branches reaching up to the sunshine, towards the warmth that quickens the leaves and the buds to produce fruit. Fruit that comes in season-not too early and not late, but at just the right time, when all is in readiness to produce the most healthy, nutritious, flavourful, beautiful fruit. And leaves that do not wither.

The trees needs are always met…and always met right on time.

Whatever he does prospers. We do not often see the effects of many of the things we do. We have no idea that the littlest smile, the kind gesture, letting someone go ahead in the grocery line can impact another person in ways that the Holy Spirit can use. We may never know how God will use our tiniest acts of love to grow His kingdom, to make it thrive. Prosperity may not mean a big house, a large family, multiple cars or lack of financial, physical, emotional or spiritual struggles…maybe prosperity is an attitude that seeks out holiness and righteousness over all other hopes, desires and wants.

…not so the wicked whose idea of prosperity is power and wealth, material things that are abundant on this earth. They are not rooted in the love of the law that brings life. No. They are like chaff that the wind blows away. They are the garbage that the farmers don't want; worthless because no one wants to buy chaff with their grain because in it are no nutrients, nothing that will make anything grow or become stronger or better and so very easily blown away…just dust that clogs noses and throats and lungs making breathing difficult and painful.

The wicked will not stand in judgement…cannot stand. Cannot lift their faces under the weight of their own sinfulness. The mere presence of righteousness will be intolerable to them.

But the righteous will assemble and will stand, for God watches over the way of the righteous. Almighty God, the First and the Last, All Powerful, Commander of the angel armies knows the way of the righteous…is with us every step we take whether through dark times or times when the sun shines from every angle.

"But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (Job 23:10)

When He has tested us, may we also come forth as gold. May we dig deep our roots into the living truth of His Word, grow strong and bear beautiful fruit all in the proper season as He has prepared for each of us with gracious and compassionate Love.

Monday's scripture focus: Psalm 2
Saturday's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Zechariah 11, 12

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday, December 24th ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: Revelation 18; Zechariah 3-4
Today's scripture focus passage: Luke 24:50-53 - The Ascension
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.
Okay, so here we are at the last paragraph in the Book of Luke.  After only eight months!  ;)

MacArthur delivered the final sermon in his ten-year study of the Gospel of Luke four days before Christmas, and makes an interesting observation about traditional celebrations:  At our time of birth, when the big celebrations are generally thrown, nothing has been accomplished yet.  It makes far more sense to throw the celebration at the time of death, because that's when we know what that person has accomplished.  There is nothing notable or of any lasting value worth celebrating at the time of someone's birth, and yet we make a pretty big deal of it.  Jesus' birth is the ONLY birth in human history where the lifetime achievements were already recorded BEFORE He was born and so it was highly appropriate that His arrival in the stable, His actual birth, was celebrated.

But His ascension is generally passed over.  Despite a life that fulfilled ancient prophecy and displayed the heart of God for mankind to plainly see, we don't throw the celebration at the end of His life, despite the fact that even His "end" is completely extraordinary.  Interestingly, Luke is the only writer who records the ascension, and maybe it's because it doesn't get the attention and detail that His birth and death do, that we tend to think of it as an aside.  MacArthur argues it should get every bit the celebration Christmas and Easter offer.

The significance of the ascension, he says, is eleven-fold:
  1. It marked the completion of Jesus' salvation work.
  2. It is the end of His limitations. Over 30 years earlier, He had set aside the independent use of His divine authority and power to become a slave to the Father.  That was now over.  He returned to His preincarnate glory, though He remains in His God-man form.
  3. It marked His exaltation and coronation.  It was then that God gave Him the "Name above all names" that would cause every knee to bow, either in worship or in judgment.
  4. It signaled the sending of the Holy Spirit.
  5. It marked the beginning of His preparations for our heavenly home.
  6. It marked the passing of the baton of evangelism to believers.  The work of redemption was His and His alone to begin and complete; He began the work of evangelism, but it is the on-going duty of believers.
  7. It signaled His headship over The Church. The Church is left behind to embody His person and presence here on earth, though as a man, He is no longer with us.
  8. It marks His triumph over Satan.  His resurrection was the death-blow, but His ascension confirms the destruction was complete.
  9. It signaled the giving the gift of ministry to gifted men.  In His earthly ministry, Jesus never seemed to "pass the mantle" to any of His disciples, but according to Ephesians 4, upon His ascension, He "led captive a host of captives and gave gifts to men."  Because of the work He had accomplished on earth, when He ascended into heaven, He had provided a salvation that would capture souls who would be given back as gifts to men...some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastor/teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.
  10. It marked the beginning of His work as our Great High Priest.
  11. The ascension guarantees and secures His return! In the Acts account of the event, the angels tell Jesus followers they will see Him return the same way they saw Him go.
He is exalted by His ascension, crowned as Lord. He sends the Holy Spirit. He begins to prepare our eternal home. He takes the headship of the church. He defeats Satan. He passes evangelism and ministry to His followers. He begins the blessed work of intercession on behalf of His people and stands ready to return in God's perfect time.

Yes, in the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “He who is rich became poor, divesting Himself of all heaven's riches that we through His poverty might be made rich.” So as we come to Christmas this year, maybe we could go on to the end of the story, get pass the beginning and reflect on everything that He accomplished.
And thus we conclude Luke's Gospel, and take a short break for the holiday.  Have a very merry Christmas, everyone, and we'll see you back here on Friday!!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: Revelation 19; Zechariah 5-6
Friday's scripture focus passage: Psalm 1

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday, December 23rd

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 17, Zechariah 1-2
Today's scripture focus is Luke 24:44-49

Luke 24:44-49

English Standard Version (ESV)
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

All scripture is God-breathed.  The entire Word of God must be, has been, and will continue to be fulfilled.  The Word is living and active.  The Word does not return void.  The Word accomplishes what its sets out to do.  The Gospel message is not something new out of left field.  It is a continuation of the OT, it is a fulfillment of the OT.

Jesus died, and is now alive again, because that's what the Word said would happen.  And so it did.  It is not optional.  Everything God has promised will come to pass.  Everything.

V45 is very clear - God opens our minds in order to understand the Scriptures.  This is a huge reminder for me - so often I go into Bible reading or evening Bible studying without first praying that God would give me understanding.  What a huge mistake that is.  Obviously, He can reveal things to me without me praying and asking - but this is a great reminder to me that I need to pray before digging into scripture.

What are the scripture about?  Jesus.  It's the "Sunday School answer", but it's so true.  The Bible is not about us.  It's about Jesus.  The primary purpose of the OT was to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus.

That’s why it’s promised in the Old Testament he would be born of a woman, he would be born of a virgin, he would be born in Bethlehem, he would be born before AD 70, that he would live without sin, that he would perform miracles, that he would die through crucifixion, that he would be buried with the rich in his death, that he would resurrect three days later, and that he would save sinners from the eternal wrath of God, and that he alone would ascend into heaven, and that he would take the people of God with him, and that he would rule and reign as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and that one day he would return to establish a kingdom that would never end.

It all came to pass.  And now we're waiting for the fulfillment of the promises of Jesus' Second Coming.  We know that they also will be fulfilled, because the promises of His first coming were fulfilled.

Repentance and forgiveness is only possible through Jesus.  He is the only Way.  He is the only Truth.  He is the only Life.

And the disciples witnessed this!  The writers of the New Testament witnessed this.  And they waited for the promised Holy Spirit to come upon them, so give them the courage and strength and power they would need to proclaim this amazing message to the world.

What he says is this message has to be proclaimed; this gospel, this good news that God loves us, that he came for us, that he lived the life that we have not lived, that he died the death that we should’ve died, that he rises to conquer the enemies we cannot defeat. His name is Jesus! It’s all finished. He’s alive and well. That the nations need to know, that everyone needs to know. And he says it must be proclaimed.

Jesus says it must be proclaimed.  We have that same power.  We have the same message.  Are we sharing it?  With words?!

I just loved this portion of Driscoll's sermon - the quote he mentions has bothered me for years....
The good news, the gospel of Jesus is not something that can be shown; it must be said. It cannot be shown; it must be said because the good news is about the life, the death, the burial, the resurrection of Jesus. Yes, we believe in justice. Yes, we believe in mercy. Yes, we believe it is good to seek the physical healing of people. Jesus healed them physically. Yes, we believe it is good to feed the hungry. Jesus fed the hungry. Yes, we believe it is good for those who are marginalized and poor and outcast to be loved and cared for as image-bearers of God, and Jesus did that and taught that. But in and of itself, that is not enough to save.
People don’t need just good deeds, though they are helpful. They need good news. They need to learn about Jesus. And one of my great concerns is the cowardice among some who would say, “I don’t want to talk about Jesus. I just want to love and serve people, and I will assume that somehow they will make a connection to Christ.” They won’t. That’s our job. Not just our job, that’s our joy. That’s our joy.
There was a saint many years ago, and there’s a saying that is attributed to him that some would say perhaps he did not say, but it was, “Preach the gospel at all times, and use words when necessary.” False. Preach the gospel. Preach the gospel. Tell people about sin and a Savior. And yes as we love and yes as we care and yes as we give and yes as we serve we can then say, “This is on behalf of Jesus. He loves. He serves. He gives. He is good. He is God. Anything that you appreciate in my affection for you is a reflection of him.”
And so I’m not saying that good words and good deeds are to be divorced, but I’m saying that good deeds without good words can lead to damnation. And if we want people to experience salvation, we can’t just do good deeds. We must tell the good news that Jesus died for sin and he rose for salvation and that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but by him.
He says that we should preach repentance and forgiveness, and it says it “should”—very important word—“should be proclaimed.” Then it hangs in the air as to whether you and I will actually do so. 

Tomorrow's scripture focusLuke 24:50-53
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Revelation 18; Zechariah 3-4

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday, December 20th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 16; Habbakuk 1-3
Today's scripture focus is Luke 24:33-43

Luke 24:33-43

English Standard Version (ESV)
33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Kiss the Feet
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Living Christ Dispels All Doubt

The resurrection is such a crucial fact.  Christianity crumbles without it.

Because of the resurrection, sin is defeated.  Because of the resurrection, death is defeated.  Because of the resurrection, God's wrath has been satisfied.  Because of the resurrection, our ability to have an eternal relationship with God has been made possible.

It's a big deal.

Which means that Jesus couldn't simply be resurrected and return to heaven.  He needed to be seen alive by the disciples.  The resurrection needed to be witnessed.

Why a bodily resurrection?
Number one, a bodily resurrection was necessary to demonstrate His complete victory over sin. Sin kills. Sin brought spiritual death and it brought physical death. If He only conquered the spiritual side, then He did not conquer sin completely. The wages of sin is both physical and spiritual death. He needed to conquer both...He needed to conquer both. If Christ had only conquered spiritual death, it would have been less than a complete victory. If he had not risen bodily, we who are His would not rise either. There would never be a restoration of this earth, there would be no millennial glory, that is all gone. That can’t happen. Bodily resurrection is necessary to make the triumph over sin’s effect total.
Secondly, resurrection is necessary to demonstrate the purpose of God in the humanity, that we were created as men and women to give glory to God through that creation. And that creation would be recovered in glory so that as we men and women in physical form throughout eternity, we will give glory to God as we were originally intended to, not as a half-way being which was partially conquered by sin and partially rescued.
And maybe most importantly, the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is visible proof that God was satisfied with His sacrifice. It does matter that His body does come out of that grave because how else do we know that God was satisfied with His offering? Because we couldn’t see His Spirit. Faith comes, saving faith comes when you acknowledge Jesus as Lord because you know God raised Him from the dead which puts the divine stamp of approval on His work on the cross...
If all you do is follow Jesus to the cross, you’re going to have your hopes shattered. They needed to know not only did He die but He’s alive and the only way they would know that is to see Him in the physical, visible, tangible, touchable form. If they had never seen Jesus alive from the dead, if his body was in a box somewhere, they would never have carried the message any further. They would have gone to Emmaus and every other village dispersed all the way back to where they came from and they would have said, “There’s no reason to go a step further.” They would never have attempted to make converts and establish a religion based on a dead, disappointing teacher even though they loved Him. What changed them was they saw Him alive. No one would have believed the Lord Jesus was Redeemer, Savior, Son of God and Lord if He hadn’t visibly risen from the dead and that too is the testimony of the Apostle Paul in these powerful words, 1 Corinthians 15:13, “If there’s no resurrection of the dead, Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your preaching is vain, your faith is vain and we are found to be false witnesses of God because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ whom He didn’t raise if in fact the dead are not raised. If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.”
He had to show Himself alive so we would know that His sacrifice had been accepted by the Father. Beloved, the philosophers were wrong. Plato was wrong, Aristotle was wrong, and all who followed them were wrong. The body is not the prison of the spirit, the body is essential to what it means to be a human. And in our glorified form, we will be both body and spirit in heaven exalting Christ forever. And the good part, we will be like Him.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 24:44-49
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Zephaniah 1-3
Sunday's passage: Haggai 1-2
Monday's passage: Revelation 17, Zechariah 1-2

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thursday, December 19 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 15; Nahum 1-3.
Today's scripture focus is Luke 24:13-32.

The Road to Emmaus

13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

I like this story.  Jesus came to the two men on the road, but they were not able to recognize him, and he explained how all the prophecies of the old testament had been fulfilled through the events that had just occurred, now, while it was all still fresh in their minds.  His first priority after coming back from the dead was to teach.  He really and truly wanted people to understand who he was and how the events had all fulfilled the prophecies the Jews had waited so long to have fulfilled, but not in the way they had expected.  The sermon by Mark Driscoll is quite humorous and I really enjoyed it.  If you'd like to read or listen to it, you can find it here.  I'll just take a couple of excerpts.

“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” And this is that you can be physically alive and yet spiritually blind. And here they don’t see Jesus for who he is, even though he’s right there.

The sad truth is that that is the state of all people who are apart from Christ and those of us who are in Christ that choose to close our eyes to the truth of Christ. God has to open our hearts. He has to open our minds. He has to open our eyes. He has to open our understanding.

And so for those of you who have non-Christian family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, they’re not stupid. They’re blind. It’s not necessarily that they’re opposing what they see; they don’t see Jesus clearly.

That’s this great illustration here. Jesus is right there, and they don’t see him. They don’t see him for who he truly is.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets . . . ” That’s another way of saying the Old Testament Scriptures. At this point in history the New Testament had not yet been written. “. . . he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Coolest Bible study ever. Jesus is like, “Let’s start in Genesis. Here I am. Exodus, more me. Leviticus, ha, me, too.” He just kept going. He just kept going through the Old Testament, taking all of the Scriptures and connecting them to himself. “This is about me, this is about me, this is about me, this is about me.”


Here’s what’s really important. This is how Jesus taught the Bible. There’s morality in there, but it’s not primarily about morality. There’s religion and tradition and history, and miracles and the supernatural in there, but it’s not primarily about all of that. All of that is secondary. It’s primarily about Jesus.

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 24:33-43
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Revelation 16; Habbakuk 1-3

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday, December 18th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 14; Micah 5-7
Today's scripture focus is Luke 24:1-12

So sorry, I forgot I hadn't posted yet!!

Luke 24:1-12

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Resurrection

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Jesus' Burial and Resurrection
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: An Empty Town With an Angelic Explanation and Witnessing Women and Doubting Disciples

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is likely the single most important fact of Christianity.  If there was no resurrection, then the death of Jesus accomplished nothing, and Christmas isn't worth celebrating.  If there was no resurrection then death won the victory and we are hopeless.

The resurrection is true.  There are multiple evidences of it, including circumstantial ones (as outlined by Driscoll in his sermon on this passage).

Women were the first witnesses.  If this were a lie, they would have made men the liars because women's testimony was inadmissible in court.

The disciples change from cowards into bold proclaimers of the gospel, willing to die for the sake of this truth.  Men do not die for what they know to be a lie.

People have remained loyal to Jesus for thousands of years.  If Jesus was died, the disciples would've scattered and mourned, and Jesus would have been forgotten.  Instead, Jesus becomes the most famous person in history.

Worship changed.  Jews worshiped on the Sabbath which was Saturday.  After the resurrection, the church began to worship on Sunday as a celebration of the resurrection.

Jesus' own family worshiped Him as God - including His mother and His half-brothers.

Jesus' enemies worship Him - including Saul who became Paul.

No body was ever produced.

No grave was ever enshrined.

And, quite frankly, the fact that the New Testament was even written is pretty compelling evidence to the resurrection.  Someone who proclaims to be Messiah only to die a criminal's death does not inspire one to write a book celebrating and worshiping such a failure.

The facts of the resurrection are all well and good.  But MacArthur sums it up well.....

When I was a kid we used to sing a little song called “He Lives,” anybody remember that? He lives, He lives, He lives within my heart. And there’s a line in that song that always bothered me. “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” Well that’s true. But if you ask me how I know He lives, I’ve got to give you more than that because that’s not verifiable. Somebody might say, “Well good for you. I’m so glad He lives within your heart. That is not universal, that is not verifiable, that is not going to get this thing beyond you.” So feeling may be something that helps us emotionally. It removes some emotional barriers to experience the living Christ, emotional barriers to believing say in the resurrection. But there’s got to be something more than that.
You say, “Well you can’t have only feeling, how about fact?” Fact is good. And you’ve been given facts. And all that I’ve given you are facts. While feelings deal with emotional barriers, facts deal with historical barriers. And what these facts do, what these lines of evidence do, this is what evidentialism always does is it depletes, it dismisses, it dispels bad options, weak arguments, foolish theories. Feeling removes emotional barriers. Facts remove intellectual barriers. But neither of those necessarily saves. You might feel in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead. You might say well the facts look like He rose from the dead, and you would be among the Jewish leaders who all agreed that that was what happened.
That’s not going to save you. Your feelings about the resurrection, and even the facts of the resurrection won’t save you, the only thing that will save you is faith in the resurrection, confessing with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. That’s where real certitude comes from. Don’t trust your feelings and you’ve got to move the facts inside, and that’s what faith does. Faith embraces the truth concerning Jesus Christ. So next time somebody says to you, how do you know He lives? You say, number one, the facts indicate that He is alive. That removes my intellectual barriers, my own experience of Him in my life removes any emotional or psychological barriers. More importantly than that, I have a faith that was given to me by God Himself that has with that faith certitude and assurance. It isn’t the feelings that deliver the certainty, it isn’t even the facts that deliver the certainty, it’s the faith that delivers the certainty. It’s a component of saving faith. Ask God to give you that faith that makes the resurrection certain and you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, the one whom God raised from the dead.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 24:13-32
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Revelation 15, Nahum 1-3