Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday, 29 November 2013 ~ Roxie

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Revelation 1, Daniel 9, 10
Today's scripture focus is Luke 22:39-46

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

There was a new tension in the garden; a finality to the teachings of Jesus the last few days…something was up and from what Jesus had been saying, it wasn't going to be the victory over Rome that some were hoping it would be. Too much talk of death, of blood…of remembrance.

In a solemn mood, the disciples followed Jesus to his usual place to pray. A secluded, quiet place, away from crowds, away from city noise…dark…quiet. Shrouded, this night with a sense of despair and a foreboding directive, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation". What did Jesus know that was coming? This was no vague warning that a trial to be suffered was approaching, but temptation. Temptation to which Jesus was concerned that they would succumb, fall prey.

Heavy hearted, maybe even individually introspective that each might be the Teacher's betrayer…perhaps this was the warning against temptation?? Did they try to pray? Did they remember the words of the prayer their beloved Teacher had spoken to them, murmur the sacred words under their breath as, with unsettled hearts, they ironically positioned themselves under the canopy of olive branches, the Hebrew symbol of peace, of shalom.  Eyes closing against the anguish of what was to come, uncertain as the disciples might be, only knowing that separation from the Rabbi was imminent.

"Pray that you will not fall into temptation"…maybe Jesus was not concerned only about the temptation of the disciples, but of his own. Jesus knew what was coming, what was expected of him. The Son of God, fully God and also fully human, prayed to his Papa, "if you are willing, take this cup from me." What a weight on his shoulders, the understanding of indescribable pain and humiliation to come, the inability of his closest friends to truly understand the turmoil in his heart, the betrayal by one of those dear friends…the looming tomorrows filled with doubting, unbelieving souls, whose great weight of sin would soon rest upon his shoulders.

"...not my will, but yours be done"keep doing your will, Father God; it has gotten us this far and will carry us through…and an angel strengthened him. This time in the midst of the crisis, instead of at the end like years before in the desert. Even with added strength from heaven, the anguish does not diminish, but drives Jesus on to yet more fervent prayers. Prayer so intense that "tiny capillaries in the sweat glands...rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration" (Dave Miller). Emotional stress so great, that Jesus, the Son of God, sweat drops of blood while he prayed for the strength of will to save humanity…to save the disciples…to save me…sleepers all.

Just as the disciples closed their eyes to the troubles of the moment, I find myself longing to do the same…doing the same. Craving the oblivion of sleep, avoiding life's pain, life's sorrow, life's responsibilities…exhausted from sorrow…overwhelmed...

And then Jesus stands above the sleepers, blood streaked face from interceding on behalf of all humanity. He is willing to see God's plan through to the end…so why am I sleeping?

"Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

Get up and pray, my friends. God is at work. He is strong enough to carry all sorrow. He is our strength to face each new day, each uncertain moment.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Monday's scripture focus: Luke 22:47-53
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Daniel 11, 12

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday, November 28 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Jude; Daniel 7-8
Today's scripture focus is Luke 22:35-38.

And He said to them, When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Well, I was kind of at a loss as to how to approach these verses.  Really, in order to study these verses, you have to recall Luke 10, where Jesus sent them out with nothing.  It's a little confusing, really, because basically Jesus is telling them to do the opposite of what he'd told them before.  Mark Driscoll in Jesus, Tough and Tender: of the statements in the Protestant Reformation was tota sola Scriptura. It’s a Latin phrase that means all of Scripture is alone our highest authority. Even the best books that we write don’t compare to the book that God wrote, and so our highest authority, the authority by which we test reason, and tradition, and religion, and philosophy, and sociology, and psychology is the Word of God, and that is our metaphorical supreme court of highest authority, and everything is tested by the Scriptures. 

Now, in that, we need to be careful that we test by all of Scripture; otherwise, what happens is people go to the Bible, they take a part that they like, they ignore the parts they don’t, or they sometimes just innocently but errantly build their whole life, or doctrine, or behavior on a section of Scripture without considering all that Scripture has to say.

Earlier in Luke, we read this. Luke 10:3–4, Jesus says to his disciples, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals.” So, Jesus looks at his disciples, says, “Pack nothing: no food, no money, no supplies, no weapons. You’re like a lamb. You’re like a lamb.”

Now, if you only obeyed this verse and didn’t practice tota sola Scriptura, do you know what we’d do today? Well, we’d take your purse, ladies. We would take your wallet, gentlemen. We would take your shoes, right? We would take all of your provisions, and we would send you out of here saying, “Hey, Jesus said take nothing with you.” Now what do you think about that? I see women clutching their purse. I can see that. But this is what Jesus said, right?

And if I came to you, and I said, “Hey, Jesus said no shoes. Shoes off!” You’re like, “Really? It’s a sin to wear shoes?” “Jesus said it! “And no backpacks and definitely no fanny packs, for a variety of reasons, some of which are theological. Some of them are just aesthetic and style related. 

Well, which is it, Jesus? Pack supplies or don’t pack supplies? Be ready or don’t be ready? Wear shoes or don’t wear shoes? Pack a weapon or don’t pack a weapon? Which is it? And it all depends on the mission. It depends on what you’re being sent to do. 

How many of you, let me ask, how many of you tend to be more tender? You’re more tender. All the verses on love, grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, forbearance, long-suffering, turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, you like those, because that’s how you are. How many of you are more tough? All the hell, wrath, judgment, flood, fire, brimstone— “Yeah! Love me them verses.” Right?

How many of you even then, when it comes to Jesus, some of you go to Jesus and you say, “I just fondly recall all the tender stories about Jesus.” How many of you fondly recall all the tough stories about Jesus? See how this works? If we don’t practice tota sola Scriptura, we see Jesus as either tender or tough.

And here’s the truth. Some of you are too tender; you need to be more tough. Some of you are too tough; you need to be more tender. And it’s true for all of us. 

Mr. Driscoll then lists off a whole bunch of different examples of Jesus' tenderness and toughness, which would make this post insanely long, so if you'd like to read them for yourself, please click the link above.

So back to my original question. Is Jesus tender or tough? The answer is yes. He’s tender and tough, and sometimes he’s tender and tough at the same time. How about you? Do you tend to be more tender, or do you tend to be more tough? Or to say it another way, do you tend to be Luke 10 or Luke 22?

And if you don’t practice tota sola Scriptura, you’re just going to get verses and portraits of Jesus that fit either tender or tough, and you will reduce Jesus to that, and then you will seek to be like him, hopefully by the grace of God, but the truth is you won’t be obeying all that the Bible says, only some of what the Bible says. 

Definitely something to think about!  The sermon also talks about Jesus frequently quoting Scripture and how important it is that we know the Bible well.  That is also very good advice.  I memorized a lot of verses as a kid, but I haven't been diligent about "hiding God's word in my heart" as an adult.  Something else to work on!

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 22:39-46.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Revelation 1; Daniel 9-10

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 27th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 3 John; Daniel 5-6
Today's scripture focus is Luke 22:31-34

Sorry I'm so late on this post!

Luke 22:31-34

English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Foretells Peter's Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon:  Table Talk on Trouble and Triumph Part 2
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Jesus and Peter

It's no surprise that Satan wants to go after Peter.  He is, after all, the leader of the eleven.  And what does he want to do?  He wants to sift Peter like wheat.  When wheat was sifted, it cause the chaff to be blown away, leaving only the wheat.  In other words, it got rid of the fake and left what was real.

MacArthur add that the "you" here is not only referring to Peter, it is a plural form of the word you.  Satan wants to sift all of them.  He wants to violently shake them to find out if they're real.  And though the disciples will all fall (when they scatter in the face of Jesus' arrest), they will not permanently fall away.

Satan's first goal is to keep Jesus from the cross.  He knows the redemption plan.  His next goal is to disband the disciples so there would be no one to preach the cross.

Satan relentlessly appeals to God to turn against His own, to abandon His own, to leave them to themselves because they’re so weak.  Let their faith fail.  And he asks God for permission to assault their faith.

And God says yes.

Satan is still a servant of God.  A very unwilling one obviously, but he is still only a servant.  And he can not operate outside God's parameters.

Just like the story of Job.  Satan had to ask permission to test Job's faith.  And Satan thought that Job would fail.  But God knew he would not.  And Job reached a greater level of repentance and worship through his pain and suffering than he ever would have otherwise. His faith did not fail.

Check out v32.....
32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. 

When Jesus prays, you better believe His prayers are answered! He always prays in the will of God, and our great High Priest intercedes for us at the right hand of God.  Just imagine it - it's amazing!

I love this portion by MacArthur....
Satan wants to prove that he can destroy saving faith.  That’s the old effort.  That’s the age-old effort.  Satan says, “Let me at him and I’ll destroy their trust in You, I’ll destroy their faith in You.”
And you want to know something?  If it was left up to us, he would.  I’ve told you this before.  If I could lose my salvation, I would lose it.  If it were possible, it would happen.  If I had to save myself, I couldn’t save myself.  If I had to keep myself saved, I couldn’t keep myself saved.  My faith cannot fail not because of me but because of the one who secures my faith by His own intercession.  And when Satan goes, according to Romans 8, before God and lays an accusation before God against us, it does not stand.  Who can lay any charge to God’s elect?  It is Christ that justified.  Christ has already paid in full the penalty for our sin, declared us just, granted us righteousness and therefore no condemnation can stand against us.  And Paul goes on to say, “Then what’s going to separate us from the love of Christ?” And the answer is, “Absolutely nothing...nothing.”  No accusation stands against us.  Our great High Priest is for us and if God is for us, who can successfully be against us?  I love that.  “I have prayed for you.” That’s personal.....
No satanic assault, as evil and troubling as it is, can destroy saving faith.  Let the devil come, let the devil assault, let the devil give his best shot as a roaring lion against Simon and against the other ten Apostles, bring it on, bring it on, you cannot break saving faith because I intercede.  Christ is our security.  This is the great testimony of the words of Jude, “Of Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority before all time and now and forever, Amen.”  He will keep you from a final fall.  Satan is defeated in all attempts.
You say, “Well why does God even allow it?”  Because, look at the end of verse 32, “When once you have turned again, or been converted, strengthen your brothers.”  God allowed Satan to do his worst against Peter because out of it Peter would be able to strengthen others.
I also appreciated his thoughts on v33...
“Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death.”  Always overconfident.  “With You” is the operative phrase, prepositional phrase, “With You, as long as You’re here, I can go through anything, I can take anything.”  He knew Jesus could raise the dead, heal the sick and had limitless power.  As long as You’re here, I can endure anything.  And it showed up a little later in the Garden when the force arrived to arrest Jesus, Peter grabbed his sword and began to whack his way through all of them.  Started with the servant of the high priest named Malchus and took off his ear .  He wasn’t aiming for his ear, he was aiming for his throat.  He was invincible in his own mind, as long as “with You,” as long as Jesus is here, I’ll go to prison and death.
By the way, that was a prophecy because he did.  He ended up being imprisoned for his faith in Christ and ultimately crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy, he said, to be crucified the way his Lord was crucified.  So he did go to prison and to death.  But here it’s just bravado.  “As long as You’re here, have at it, Lord, I will never deny You, I will never disappoint You.”  And he showed that as long as Jesus was around, he could pick up a sword and go at it knowing the Lord could bail him out at any moment with His power. 
But, when Jesus was arrested, that was a different story.  And Jesus knew that.  
And did Peter stumble?  Yes, he did.  Did he deny Jesus?  Yes, he did.

But did he lose saving faith?  No, he did not.  He was at the tomb, he witnessed the resurrection, and he was fully restored to his Lord.  Just like Jesus says in v34.

You’re going to go through a trial and a temptation and a failure that will be so devastating that in human strength you wouldn’t survive it, but it will be a time to prove to you how faithful Christ is to hold His own, even at their weakest hours.  Use that to strengthen others.
If you read 1 Peter, Peter’s first letter, start in chapter 1, read all the way to chapter 5 and see how many times Peter tries to strengthen others to be able to endure trials.  That’s one of his recurring, constant themes.  He became strong.  He became strong, an encourager to others to endure trials.  And Jesus saw that.  Yes He saw that Peter would deny Him, prophesied it.  Yes, He also saw that Peter would become a source of strength to others.  And he did become the great preacher of the first eleven chapters of Acts, became the great preacher on the day of Pentecost, the great preacher who brought the church from a standpoint of the truth being proclaimed into its beginnings and thousands of people in a matter of weeks came to Christ under his great preaching.
Do we stumble?  Yes, we do.  Do we fail Jesus?  Yes, we do.

But we can never lose saving faith.  Jesus intercedes for us.  He alone secures our faith.

I'd like to close with MacArthur's closing prayer...
Father, we thank You for the glimpse we have here of the great intercessory work of Christ on behalf of His own which we are.  Oh what a joy it is to know that no matter what we go through, no matter what manifest weaknesses we have, no matter what failures are exhibited in our lives, no matter how deep and severe the trouble we cause the Lord, He never lets go of His own.  Our faith cannot fail because of the work of the one who prays for us, even as He prayed for those men.  Thank You, Thank You, O Lord.  Thank You for loving us everlastingly.  Amen.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 22:35-38
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Jude, Daniel 7-8

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday, November 26 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: 2 John; Daniel 3-4
Today's scripture focus passage: Luke 22:21-30 -
But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.

And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
Today we are in the Upper Room, the secretive place Jesus had prepared for Himself and His disciples to celebrate the last Passover.  I mention that it was secretive because His disciples knew how dangerous a position Jesus was in.  They knew the tension was mounting and the rumours were swirling and physical danger was at hand and so Jesus' statement that His betrayer was at the table with them will have shocked them.  Here all these precautions had been taken to keep this place a secret ~ even most of them hadn't known where the feast would be until it was ready for them; Jesus had made Himself somewhat scarce and appeared after they were already assembled in the room.  And despite all the attention to secrecy, His betrayer is eating with them!  And He knows it!!

Luke doesn't mention it, but all the other Gospels include the exchange whereby the disciples quiz Jesus and ask Him which of them is the betrayer.  I find that interesting.  Each of them obviously recognized his weaknesses, the very real possibility that it could be him, even though at that moment he couldn't imagine betraying the Teacher.

Anyway, it almost appears, here in Luke, that many still don't know.  Maybe this little exchange happened before Jesus singled out Judas.  Maybe he'd already left and the disciples were expressing their disdain at how hypocritical Judas had been and how they would never have turned on Jesus.  We don't really know, but their conversation takes a turn for the worse and they begin comparing themselves to each other ~ maybe even pointing out and bringing up each others' past failures.  And Jesus has to reign them in and get them to refocus, reminding them that His Kingdom isn't about who APPEARS the greatest, but about being a true servant.  He points to Himself as their best example and of course, as we know from the other Gospels, this is the point where Jesus literally places Himself at the lowest possible position and washes their feet.

But then He makes an absolutely amazing statement: "In my Kingdom, you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel"!!  These eleven men, with the addition of Matthias after Jesus' resurrection, will be the foundation of The Church.  Though they are weak, human, and still uncomprehending at this time, they will become the fathers of Christianity!

There will be special honour in Heaven for these men specifically, but we have the promise of ruling with Jesus as well ~ those of us who persevere and finish strong in the faith.  We will reign with Him forever!!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: 3 John; Daniel 5-6
Monday's scripture focus passage: Luke 22:31-34

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25 - Tiffany

Today's scripture focus is Luke 22:14-20

Yep, I'm late again.  Sorry, folks!

The Lord’s Supper

14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

The last Sunday of every month, my church has communion.  We are a Nazarene church (think Protestant, Wesleyan), and run around 40 people.  It's a pretty nice little place, where we all know each other, and my husband is the pastor.

It used to be that I would never think of handing over communion stuff to my kids.  1. They are little (6, 4, 2)  2. They are messy.  3.  Do they really understand it?

But since we've being doing it every month, they're starting to take notice.  They recognize this passage their Daddy reads about every 4 weeks.  They see the congregation all taking a little piece of bread, and a little cup of juice all at the same time.

Last month, my 4 year old asked if he could do it as well.  So while my husband read the passages, I explained that we take communion to remember Christ's death for our sins, to celebrate him rising again to free us from those sins.  That it is a very serious thing.
Yesterday, all three of my kids did communion with me, though my 2 year old just thought it was a very small snack.  

Anyway, I read this passage this morning with that thought in mind, of my kids, of my list of reasons why they shouldn't take communion, and #3 really stood out to me.  Do they really understand it?

Do ANY of us really understand it?  For that matter, did the DISCIPLES understand it?  They knew it was the Passover meal, it was a special celebration for their people.  But did they understand the significance of what Jesus was doing, was saying?
Probably  not so much right at that moment.
But later, later I think they go it.

So while my kids probably don't quite grasp the full significance of communion, I still welcome the chance to explain it to them, to pass out the bread and juice, to pray with them.  Because while they may not understand it now, while we may only see as through a dark glass now, someday we will all understand, and we will all see clearly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday, November 22nd

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 John 4; Ezekiel 43-44
Today's scripture focus is Luke 22:7-13.

Luke 22:7-13

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Passover with the Disciples

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: God's Preparation for the Final Passover
Accompanying Dave Bruskas (Mars Hill) sermon: Jesus and the Last Supper

Today we see continuing evidence of God's absolute sovereignty.

MacArthur: The Father had designed the plan. The Spirit empowered the plan. And Jesus enacted the plan, doing only what the Father willed Him to do when the Father willed Him to do it. He was on a divine schedule and He controlled every detail.

I love that.  The knowledge of God's absolute sovereignty is just thrilling to me!

The time is drawing near for Jesus to be betrayed and become our Passover lamb, but it can't happen before the celebration of the final passover, and the beginning of the celebration of communion.  I'm sure Judas thought this would be the perfect opportunity to betray Jesus and for the Jewish leaders to arrest Him, because they would be in a fixed location in a private home with no crowds around to interfere.  Easy betrayal.  Of course, Jesus knows this and He knows this is not the divine timetable. Jesus still needs to institute the Lord's Table and He still has a lengthy teaching session coming up with the disciples (John 13-17).  And He needs to be sacrificed during the slaughter of the Passover lambs.

Immediately, I had a question, and, not surprisingly MacArthur had the answer.

How could Jesus celebrate the Passover Thursday night, and be crucified during the Passover Friday afternoon?  How could there be two Passover nights?

The answer is surprisingly simple.  The Jews in the north (Galileans) and the Jews in the south (Judeans) calculated time differently from one another.  In the north, a day was calculated from sunrise to sunrise.  In the south, a day was calculated from sunset to sunset.  So, for the Galileans (Jesus and His disciples) the 14th day of Nissan was sunrise Thursday to sunrise Friday which means the Passover lambs were slaughtered Thursday afternoon and the Passover supper was eaten Thursday evening.  But, for the Judeans (including Jerusalem) the 14th day of Nissan was sunset Thursday to sunset Friday which meant that the lambs were slaughtered Friday afternoon and the supper was eaten Friday evening.   This both minimized crowds and the number of animals to be sacrificed at a given time, and separated the two peoples which minimized conflict.   So, Jesus celebrates the Judean Passover on Thursday night, and then becomes our Passover lamb on Friday.

Back to the whole clandestine Passover celebration.  Jesus sent only 2 disciples (Peter and John) likely because tradition said that only 2 men were to bring the Passover lamb to be sacrificed in order to minimize the crowds.

The two disciples had a lot of work to do to prepare for this meal.  They had to obtain and have slaughtered the lamb.  They had to find unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs (to symbolize the bitterness of their time in Egypt), a dip called kereseth which was made up of apples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts all ground up into a brown paste (to symbolize the bricks they had to make out of the mud), cinnamon sticks (to symbolize the straw sticks they used to make the bricks), a bowl of salt water (to remind them of the tears they shed while in Egypt as well as the salt waters of the Red Sea through which God delivered them).  That's a lot to get ready.

And they have no idea where they're going.  Jesus doesn't want Judas to know, so one of the disciples can know - they have no reason to distrust Judas at this point, and Jesus can't have one of them telling Judas.  So there's a bit of a cloak and dagger scene going on here - follow the man with the pitcher... :)
We don't know if Jesus prearranged this, or if He simply made it happen supernaturally.  Either way, it wouldn't have been an issue for Him.  The point is, secrecy was the key in order for the Passover celebration to happen the way it needed to, in order for Jesus to fulfill everything that needed to be done before His betrayal and subsequent death and resurrection.

Isn't amazing how God oversees every single detail?

He does that in our lives as well.  I know there are some people that think God is not concerned about the details of our lives, the He doesn't micromanage us (for lack of a better term), but I think He does.  He knows us intimately, He loves us, He is in control of absolutely every single thing that is going on in the entire universe at any given time.  That can make us feel small and insignificant - and in many ways it should, it should absolutely humble us.  But it should also make us feel loved - yes, He is in control of the entire universe - but He IS interested and active in the details too. What an amazing God we serve!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 22:14-20
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ezekiel 45-46
Sunday's passage: Ezekiel 47-48
Monday's passage: 1 John 5, Daniel 1-2

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday, November 21 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 John 3; Ezekiel 41-42.
Today's scripture focus is Luke 22:1-6

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2 The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.

3 And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. 4 And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. 5 They were glad and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd.

So reading the verses above, one might think that everything is playing into the hands of Satan.  Here are the hypocritical religious leaders working towards their own ends trying to get rid of Jesus without causing a riot.  So, in order to help these religious leaders out because it suited his agenda, Satan takes hold of Judas (and lets not pretend Judas was innocent here, because obviously Satan can only move in when he is permitted to) and goes off to betray Jesus to these corrupt religious leaders.  Sounds like it's part of Satan's plan, doesn't it?  MacArthur says this, in Sinister Players in the Sovereign Plan of Redemption:

The New Testament is crystal clear that everything in the life of our Lord was controlled by His Father...everything.  Jesus said, “I only do what the Father wills Me to do.  I only say what the Father wants Me to say.  I only do what the Father shows Me to do.”  Everything He did was what God wanted Him to do and everything that was done around Him was what God wanted or allowed to be done.  Not only did Jesus do only what the Father willed Him to do, He only did what the Father willed Him to do when the Father willed Him to do it.  He did what the Father willed, when the Father willed.  In fact, He came into the world in the fullness of time.  Which means on a divine schedule, when God’s time was exactly right. 
And He went out of the world on divine schedule.  His death was planned by God before the foundation of the world.  That’s why He is in the Scripture called the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.  It was a divine plan on God’s part that Jesus would die even before anything was created.  Not only was it determined that He would die, it was determined when He would be born, where He would live, when He would die as to the year, as to the month, as to the week, as to the day, as to the hour.
So the religious leaders need a way to get to Jesus secretly, quietly, when he doesn't have crowds of people around him.  But how to find him?  He goes to the Mount of Olives at night with his disciples, but you can't go running around in the dark with a bunch of soldiers trying to find him.  They didn't have night vision goggles, satellite images, or GPS trackers.

Then a most amazing thing happened.  Guess who showed up at their meeting?  Judas.  The best understanding of the New Testament accounts is that Judas walked in to Caiaphas’ house into the meeting.  “How much is it worth to you if I tell you where Jesus is in the middle of the night?”  That’s essentially what happened.  This is God’s time and everything is in motion.

Why would Judas do that?  First of all, he was the devil, he was an unbeliever, he was unregenerate.  He was a fake.  He was a fraud.  He was a phony.  But why would he do that?  He was greedy, filled with avarice, wanted money, stealing from the bag, knew he was going to get out, the thing was going south, going the way he didn’t want it to go.  He had wasted three years, he wants out but he wants compensation. 

But still, how do you get over the hump of three years of exposure to Jesus?  Three years of seeing miracle after miracle after miracle?  Having seen the way He taught, heard everything He said and experiences meekness and kindness and humility and gentleness as well as His power and conviction, truth, how do you do this?

Verse 3 tells you how, and we move from the devout to the devil, “And Satan entered into Judas.”  Whatever restraint might have been in Judas’ mind, whatever held Judas back, didn’t hold him back anymore.  He was already a child of the devil.  Just like the leaders were the children of the devil, John 8, “You’re of your father the devil,” Jesus said to the leaders.  The devil moved them to do what they did and now the devil had another of his own children, Judas, and he moved him to do what he did.  In fact, he not only moved him, he not only made treacherous suggestions to Judas, he moved in.  There’s a progression there. 

And so, Satan moves in.  But this is all in God’s plan.  Let me say something that might surprise you.  As we come to the devil, you need to understand one thing, Satan is God’s devil, he is God’s devil.  He operates only within the parameters that God gives him.  God is sovereign over Satan, absolutely sovereign over Satan.  Look, Satan is who he is because he tried to assault the sovereignty of God.  Do you understand that?  Do you understand that if there’s any one thing you know to be true about Satan, it is that he cannot overpower God?  He cannot rebel against God.  He cannot claim equality with God or superiority to God.  That’s what he tried to do in the rebellion, along with a third of the angels, and he was thrown out of heaven along with all of them and they are permanently demonized and God prepared a lake of fire where they will burn forever and ever and ever, along with all those who reject Christ.  The devil tried to operate outside the framework of divine sovereignty and all he got for it was eternal wretchedness and was thrown out of heaven.  The devil is God’s devil.  He works only within the parameters which a sovereign God determines.

Hard to wrap your brain around, isn't it?  Especially for those who insist that God is only good and kind and loving and forgiving.  He is all those things.  But He is also holy and just.  We live in a world that is saturated in everything that God despises.  Obviously, if God is sovereign, then bad things come because He allows it.  He not only allows it, but also makes it part of the overall design and fabric of His plan.  Does He cause  them?  I would venture to say, sometimes, yes.  Sometimes He has to give us hard things to teach us something.  I don't think we can always pass the buck to the devil when bad things happen, or say that it's because we live in a fallen world, and that God just allowed it or helped us through it.  Sometimes, at least, God has to teach and discipline and let's face it - we learn a lot more through difficult circumstances than easy, peaceful times.

I am comforted by the fact that ALL things are filtered through the hands of God.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  He never promised we wouldn't go through hard times, He only promised to be with us through it all.  I keep thinking of Romans 5:3-4:   And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 22:7-13.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 John 4; Ezekiel 43-44

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday, November 20th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 John 2; Ezekiel 39-40
Today's scripture focus is Luke 21:37-22:2

Luke 21:37-22:2

English Standard Version (ESV)
37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

22 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Accompanying MacArthur sermon: God's Preparation for Christ's Cross

The whole OT points to the cross, to the need for a suitable sacrifice that would pay the penalty for sin, satisfying the wrath of God, once and for all.  And we've finally reached the point in the book of Luke where we begin the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The death of Jesus was planned before the world was ever created.   This was not an accident.  This was not a good plan gone awry.  This was predestined by God the Father in order to provide us a way to enter relationship with Him, and ultimately, to bring Him glory.

Many people had a role in the death of Jesus - the religious leaders, Satan, and Judas all play a part. Even the disciples - not in His death, but by following Christ's instructions about the Passover which He will turn into a memorial of His work on the cross. But they're all just role players.  The architect, the designer, the power behind it all is God Himself.

In our passage today we see God's power in the timing of the cross.

In v37 we see that at night, Jesus slept on the Mount of Olives.  Why?  The religious leaders already wanted to kill Jesus.  They couldn't arrest Him in front of the crowds during the day, so their only chance was at night.  They wanted to capture Him at night and hold Him captive until the Passover was over and the crowds left, at which point they would be free to do with them what they willed, without the interference of the still loyal crowds.  Jesus didn't stay at the house of Mary and Martha, which would have made it easy for the religious leaders to find and arrest Him.  He stayed on the Mount of Olives - a place dark and thick with olive trees, where He would not be found until God's perfect timing.   That's why they needed to have a traitor, a Judas, who knew where He was at night.

When we come to v1, we see that the time has come for God to act. God's plan is to have Jesus slain on Passover - the very same moment when the animals would be sacrificed.  And so He begins to set things in motion to accomplish the most momentous event in history (His story) - the salvation of the world.

Although we are the beneficiaries of salvation - salvation isn't for us.  It's for God.

MacArthur: all of this is not just so that we can enjoy heaven but so that You can be worshiped by redeemed sinners. But the scheme is all about gathering a bride for the Son who will love Him and worship Him and honor Him and praise Him and the bride whom He can give to You, along with Himself, so that You become all in all. We’re caught up in this staggering, sweeping drama and one day brought into glory that we might become the community of those redeemed and glorified who give You worship, worship which apparently holy angels cannot fully satisfy. And so You bring us to glory. All of this for that, that You might be forever glorified.


Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 22:1-6
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 John 3, Ezekiel 41-42

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday, November 19 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: 1 John 1; Ezekiel 37-38
Today's scripture focus passage: Luke 21:34-36 -
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighted down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Jesus is still answering the disciples' question of when His second coming will transpire.  This is, in fact, Jesus' longest, most-detailed answer to any question.  Surely, it is of great importance to believers!  Here we come to a section where it seems like Jesus is giving them (and us) encouragement to "be strong and take heart" and yet it also contains a very distinct "don't be caught off guard" warning.

Essentially, there are four take-away commands for believers in this section, says Macarthur in his Christmas sermon about what believers can present to Christ upon his second coming ~ appropriate gifts like the Magi brought at His first.  Those gifts were material and were fitting for a human king, but when our King returns, there is nothing material or physical we can present Him that will compare with the less-tangible "soul gifts" hidden here in this passage.

Firstly, He wants our vigilant anticipation.  He opens with "Be careful" and ends with "Be always on the watch."  Three short verses containing two definite calls to be on our guard.  Matthew's Gospel record of this dissertation reminds us of the people in Noah's day and how, for the 120 years it took him to build the ark, he preached the coming rains, but people laughed at him and carried on with life without a care in the world.  Only one family in the whole world at that time was vigilant and ready for God's judgment.  He warns us not to be like the people in Noah's day, carrying on like life will go on forever, but to be like Noah, in constant preparation for what's coming.

Cultivating that state of constant readiness leads to the second gift:  spiritual separation.  Vigilance leads to virtue, MacArthur says.  Verse 34 has a result clause: "Be on guard SO THAT you are not weighted down with worldliness and my return catches you underneath a load of sin."  This is a call to holy living.  True believers won't lose their salvation, but they can lose their reward if living a life separated to Christ and from the world isn't their goal.  2 John 1:8 warns us this is a possibility.

Thirdly, verse 35 implies a gift of evangelistic occupation.  God's judgment is coming on ALL the world, the whole earth, the entire human race, even the universe itself.  This knowledge should, necessarily, intensify our obligation and responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission.  MacArthur asks the haunting question, "What are we doing in this world other than being the means by which God gathers sinners to Himself?"

Lastly, He asks for our faithful continuation. Verse 36 is a call towards spiritual vitality and growth.  Getting better at anything takes practice and hard work, and it's hard to want to make time for spiritual disciplines, but there is no such thing as staying in one place spiritually.  If we're not making forward progress, we're sliding backwards.  D. A. Carson puts it like this:

“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”  
Vigilant anticipation, spiritual separation (or holiness), fulfilling the Great Commission, faithfulness in all we do... they're hard things!  But that's what gives these gifts their high value.  It is a constant struggle to grow them so they are ready to present to our returning Savior, but He promises the rewards will be worth the effort.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: 1 John 2; Ezekiel 39-40
Monday's scripture focus passage: Luke 21:37-22:2

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday, November 18 - Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: 2 Peter 2, Ezekiel 35-36
Today's scripture focus is: Luke 21:29-33

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Things change. We all know that. We can resist it but it still happens. Some change is for the better and we anticipate it with great hope and yet even the most desired change is not without its difficulties.

Yesterday it snowed in my city. It was our first big snowfall of the season. While on November 17 it is not usual to get snow, I think it was the rapidness of Winter's arrival that surprised us. We felt the coldness of the season and now we saw the snow and knew that Winter is already near. This is much like this verse: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. We can see for ourselves and know. See. for. ourselves. When change happens it's almost like we need to see for ourselves to believe it. When I looked out the window this morning, I sighed and I told my husband and he came to look too. When Conrad made sure the kids were up and getting ready, they had to check out the winter view too. We seem to need to see it for ourselves to believe it.

MacArthur suggests:

Now let’s move secondly to a specific application. What’s the point of this simple analogy? Here it is, verse 31, “Even so, you also, or you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that the Kingdom of God is near.” Hey, I get it, do you get it? When you see these things happening, you know that the coming of the Kingdom is near, just like when you see the leaves you know that summer is near. It’s nothing more than that.
But the question that strikes me first is who is “you” here? When you see these things happen. Who is you? Well it has to be the people who see these things happen. Right? And then we have to ask, what are these things? And that takes you back to verse 20, the surrounding of Jerusalem by armies which triggers the great Tribulation. The signs in the sun, the moon, the stars, on the earth, the roaring of the sea and the waves, the powers of the heavens shaken, people in dismay, perplexity, dying from fear and expectation of what is coming...when you see those things, you then jumps all the way to those people who are believers in Christ who belong to Christ who are Christ’s people living in the time when those signs take place. The disciples are only symbolic of those people. They are only representative of that future group of people. You, meaning you believers, who are alive when you see these things happen. What the Lord is saying is, it’s going to come very fast.
Change often sneaks up on us. Sometimes it's abrupt but often change is slow and it's not easily noticed such as the changes from season to season. Even the gradual growing up of our children is not an overnight change...although it sometimes feels like that when they reach a new milestone and the time before that seems so short. Yesterday morning, in that first snowfall of the season, my oldest drove to school for a drama dress rehearsal and man that change did seem abrupt! and did seem to come very fast!

What will that change be like when Jesus does fulfil the prophecy of returning. He did tell us that He would. He did tell us that we need to be ready for it. He did tell us that my words will not pass away. That change of God's design is coming. The signs are there.

MacArthur concludes:

What’s the point? The point is simply this. You were saved by the living and abiding Word. It will not fail in your salvation. It does not fail to save, nor will it fail in your glorification. The Word of God is the same true abiding unassailable, unchanging truth when it speaks of the future as when it speaks of the present or of the past. You were saved through the living and abiding Word and you will be brought to glory through that same living abiding Word. Whatever God says is absolutely the way it is, whether He speaks of salvation, or sanctification, or glorification. And we look forward to the unfolding of this.

Tomorrow's scripture focusLuke 21:34-36
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Peter 3, Ezekiel 37-38

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday, 15 November 2013 ~ Roxie

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Peter 2; Ezekiel 29, 30
Today's scripture focus is Luke 21:25-28

And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near.

I must confess, I dreaded having a passage such as this (i.e. "end times-y) falling on my day to post a blog. This topic has initiated many a heated discussion between my husband and myself due to our differing opinions…or rather…my lack of one. Like this week…while I was supposed to be writing...

I guess I don't want to stick God in a box when it comes to how He is going to "fix" things. I don't want to expect things to happen a certain way…like the Rapture before the Tribulation or after or expecting trials and struggles to happen for only so many years or even for Jesus to come floating down on a cloud. Observing the intensity of fear I have heard many people express…yes, Christian people, I want less and less to expect anything.

This doesn't mean that I don't think that Jesus will return. This doesn't mean that I don't think that a cloud will be involved somehow. This doesn't mean that I don't think that He will bring into being a new heaven and a new earth. I just think that, for the most part, we miss the big picture…I forget about the big picture.

This passage of scripture from verse 7 to verse 28 describes things that have happened, that are happening and that will happen…and the majority of it sounds terrifying. Strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars…the nations will be in turmoil (NLT)…in anguish (NIV)…people will faint from terror (NIV).

That just doesn't sound good. And, I have to admit, I can absolutely understand why even some Christians that I know pray to not live through the time described here. Maybe that is why I have to cling to the last half of today's passage…maybe that is why I choose to not have much of an opinion of the how and the why and the what.

Because when everyone is good and  perplexed and terrified and in anguish over what is happening not only on the earth but also shaking the heavens above, then…THEN everyone will see the Son of Man coming in His Father's Shekinah glory…coming on a cloud. No one can dispute His identity any longer. Jesus is not just a teacher or a wise man or a clever speaker. Jesus. is. GOD.

This same cloud led the Israelites away from Egypt. This same cloud hovered over the mountain on which Moses conversed with God. This same cloud hovered over the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. This same cloud swirled around the transfiguration of Jesus and carried him to his seat at the right hand of the Father. This same cloud is revealing the Truth to the whole earth with power and great glory.

Not only will all who doubt see, but we believers have a job to do and it has absolutely nothing to do with cowering with the rest of mankind. Jesus gave us orders, my friends, we are to stand and look up.  The Complete Jewish Bible says, "When these things start to happen, stand up and hold your heads high; because you are about to be liberated!"

Stand firm and keep up hope. The battle is already won. May we await the return of our Conquering Hero with faith and perseverance. Freedom is coming!!!

Monday's scripture focus: Luke 21:29-33
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ezekiel 31, 32

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday, November 14 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Peter 1; Ezekiel 27-28
Today's scripture focus is Luke 21:20-24

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Well.  There is just nothing hopeful or upbeat in these verses at all, is there?  Here, according to Mark Driscoll, Jesus is talking no just about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, but, in essence, the end of Judaism.  This prophecy was fulfilled around 70 AD, when the Romans surrounded the city of Jerusalem and beseiged it.  No food, water or supplies could get into the city.

 Josephus, who is an ancient historian outside of the Bible, and Tacitus, who is another historian outside of the Bible—not necessarily Christians, they just tell history—they confirm that all of this happened just like Jesus promised. The people in the city literally starting starving to death and dehydrating. 

This went on for months. As I told you previously in another sermon, Josephus records that upwards of a million people died. Tacitus says that perhaps that number was 500,000. Whatever it is, it was a holocaust in that day and people died. And by the time the Romans decided that they would actually take the city and the temple, there was no resistance. People were dead, they were malnourished, they were starving, they were dying, they were grieving, they were hopeless.

And the city was besieged. And the command was given to not destroy the temple, but there was, according to history, an “accidental”—again, the sovereignty of God—an accidental fire was started by a soldier that destroyed a certain portion of the city and temple. And so then the order was given to literally raze the city, to take it all to the ground. And the city of Jerusalem was laid waste. And the temple was literally torn apart stone by stone.

Judaism was about the temple, the priests, the sacrifices for sin. That has not existed since AD 70. It’s over.

When I was there talking to some devout Jews, very sweet, very nice, nothing personal, just a very important disagreement. They would say, “Oh, but one day Messiah will come and he will rebuild the temple and we’ll have sacrifices.” It’s been two thousand years. Furthermore, that area of the temple is now controlled by the Muslims. And the vast majority of people who live in the old city of Jerusalem in the walls are Muslims.

This is not going to be the revival of Judaism. It’s over. Why? Because we don’t need it. We don’t need the temple, we don’t need the priests, we don’t need the sacrifices. We have Jesus. He is our Holy of Holies. He our Great High Priest. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And so the center of our faith today is not a place, it’s a person. We don’t go to Jerusalem. We don’t go to Mecca. We don’t go anywhere. We go to Jesus. He says he would never leave us, nor forsake us; that he would be with us always to the end of the age. We don’t go to be with God, but God has come to be with us in Jesus Christ Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”


"Immanuel" always makes me think of Christmas, probably because I most often hear that name in Christmas carols.  As we begin preparations for the busy and festive Christmas season, let's keep that name in our hearts and celebrate His birth, His coming for US, above all else.

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 21:25-28
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Peter 2; Ezekiel 29-30