Sunday, January 31, 2010
Do you ever feel alone? Are there times when you feel like God has left us here to do this thing all by ourselves? David felt that way as he wrote our Psalms 13 (Psalms 13 & 14). David was going through a time in his life where he felt God had turned his back.
I am sure we have all had a time like that. You may have went through a period of life when it felt like you were battling your struggles all by yourself. Maybe this was a time when a spouse was struggling with cancer … or just recently as you have struggled to find work … or when your child had a bully at school picking on theme. We prayed to God, but it seemed like God had forgotten us. Maybe those around us were being blessed … having their prayers answered every time they called upon God’s name.
We are reminded in James that “the testing of our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that we may become mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Friends, we must remember, that when we feel alone and abandoned by God, that he has not left us, has not forgot us, but he is molding and shaping our lives. We must think like David thought
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Today’s reading (Proverbs 3) is a difficult one to comment on. There are so many nuggets of truth that we need to live by in these words of Scripture. However, I would like to focus on one of the first proverbs we read.
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
If we were to operate with love and faithfulness in everything we do our lives would drastically change! When someone cut us off in traffic, we wouldn’t let road rage take control. When disaster happened to our neighbor we would be the one leading the charge to help them. When a family member hurts you, you would have the compassion of God to forgive them and help them to not do that again.
You see if love and faithfulness rules, then everything in our world changes; our outlook on life changes, the way we approach a challenge changes, the way we respond to negativity changes, the way we view our sinful world changes, and the way we approach evangelism changes.
Have you written love and faithfulness on the tablet of your heart? Have you bound them around your neck so that everyone you encounter sees them? If not you are not living according to Scripture. I know I could do a better job in this area of my life.
Friday, January 29, 2010
In today’s reading (Matthew 21) Jesus does something really weird. He approaches a fig tree looking for food. When he realizes that it doesn’t have any figs on it, he curses the tree and it quickly withers. Now in my finite mind, that is really unfair to the tree. Jesus should not expected that tree to produce figs … it was the wrong time of year. But he does it anyway.
I believe the reason he did it is central to the theme of this chapter. The key to this chapter is found when Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Jesus got mad at those in the temple because the fruit they were producing was not good. The chief priest and the elders did not listen to the good fruit of the message preached by John. The son who did the work of the father produced the fruit he was asked to. The tenants of the vineyard produced bad fruit by killing the servants and son of the owner.
So I ask you, what kind of fruit are you producing? Jesus is looking for good fruit. As you examine your life is the fruit you are producing something Jesus would be proud of? Or would he look at your fruit and get upset and angry like he did in the temple? While we are not saved by works, works are proof of our faith.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Jesus has performed a lot of miracles by this point in his ministry. Now it is winding down and the cross is only a week away. We have not spent much time talking about the miracles Jesus performed. Today’s reading (Matthew 20) shows just another in his list of many.
Two blind men are sitting beside the road and cry out to Jesus. The crowds rebuke these two men, but they have gotten Jesus’ attention. Jesus had compassion on them and restored their sight.
When Jesus performs a miracle, every affliction that people were stricken with is immediately healed. There was no time of healing that took place. There was no rigorous rehabilitation program. When Jesus healed people their affliction was gone. When the leper stuck out his hand, the leprosy went away and the strength was returned. When the cripple lay on his mat, and Jesus commands him to walk, immediately he gets up and walks. There was no stumbling. We know that in Acts when the cripple is sitting next to the gate called beautiful, and Peter and John heal him, he gets up and leaps and jumps for joy. When Jesus heals, it is immediate.
Now today we do not see these kinds of miracles taking place. Why is that? What was the purpose of these miracles? Jesus, and his Disciples, performed these miracles as a testimony to the message he was sharing. Today we have a different testimony to the message of the cross. We have the written Word of God. This is a Word that has stood the test of time. For nearly 2,000 years it has been handed down by each generation. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works to convict the hearts of the unsaved, and works to give testimony to the Gospel of Christ.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
As I was reading today’s passage (Matthew 19) two things really struck out to me. Normally I am only commenting on one thing that jumps out, but today I would like to give you two nuggets of insight that I had.
The first section of the reading deals with divorce. I found it interesting that the sections following this were children and money/possessions. The later is something that affects almost every marriage. Every marriage goes through ebbs and flows. Sometimes finances are loose, and other times they are tight. One of the leading issues couples filing for divorce site is money/possessions. It is probably no coincidence the author decided to put that discussion there.
The section on children also followed this discussion of divorce. Who tend to be the most affected by a divorce? It is the children of the marriage. Again there is probably no coincidence the author decided to put that discussion there.
The second nugget I noticed was in the discussion about a camel going through the eye of the needle. The question had been asked “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus tells the rich young man to sell off all of his possessions and then give to the poor. Jesus really does not answer the man’s question. So his disciples ask the question again later. This is when Jesus tells them that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. It is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (We can be confident that this was not a gate in Jerusalem being referenced here like many believe. In Luke’s account he uses a term that describes a needle used in the practice of medicine.).
What Jesus was saying was this, “there is nothing a rich man, or even a poor man can do to gain eternal life. Eternal life is only available through the work of God.” Ultimately we know that work is Christ death on the cross.
As I was putting this together, another thing hit me. No marriage will survive, no matter the struggles…financial, sickness, emotional, family…unless the hand of God is actively involved. So this chapter comes around full circle; a prosperous and successful marriage, must have God as an iatrical part of the equation, and that to gain eternal life, it is the work of Christ on the Cross.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A couple of years ago the Christian band Kutless released a song called Sea of Faces. Below are the lyrics to that song.
I see the city lights all around me
Ten million people each with their problems
Why should anyone care
And in Your eyes I can see
I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
Lost in a Sea of Faces
Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine
Because you traded Your life for mine
Sometimes my life it feels so trivial
Immersed in the greatness of space
Yet somehow you still find the time for me
It's then You show me Your love
And In Your eyes I can see
And in Your arms I will be
I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
Lost in a Sea of Faces
Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine
Because you traded Your life for mine
If only my one heart
Was all you'd gain from all it cost
Well I know you would have still been a man
With a reason
To willingly offer your life
I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
Lost in a Sea of Faces
Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine
Because you traded Your life for mine
Just one in a million faces
I think this song is a great take on this Biblical story. Jesus is saying that God cares even about one little lost sheep that he is going to go out of his way to rescue it. In this song, the author believe that he is not just a man lost in this world, that he is not lost in the sea of faces, while he is one in a million, even a billion, God still cares about him enough to willingly offer his life for his.
Friends, God has done that for you. He has offered his life for you ... He has traded his life for yours ... You are not lost in the world ... you are not just one face in a sea of faces ... you are precious to God.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Now, a few months removed from those comments, watching the team win the last four games of the season, and seeing great changes take place, I would like to retract my comments. I still believe the Browns problems start at the top. After spending time reading many articles and things about Browns owner Randy Lerner, I believe he does care, I believe he does have the best interest of the team at heart, and does want to see them win. That is why I believe he has removed himself from the situation and brought in Mike Holmgren.
Now Holmgren has only been in the job a few weeks, but his hiring brings credibility to the organization. He has taken two teams from rubble and brought them into the national spot light by taking them to 3 Super Bowls. Holmgren brings instant credibility to the leadership role of the Browns. Finally after 11 seasons there is a football guy running football operations.
I think that the church must be careful to do the same thing. If we seek to grow, if we seek to reach people for Christ then our leadership should be that of a church growth expert. I am not talking about any man or woman, I am talking about Christ. Christ should be the head of the church. Christ should be who we turn to as we make decisions for his church. Are we making decisions based on our desires and preferences’, or are we making decisions based on what Christ’s leadership would call for? After reading through 2/3 of the book of Matthew this month with West Side Bible Reading Plan, I believe it is clear that Jesus leadership would be radical. Is your church radical? Is your church seeking Christ leadership? If not, maybe you need to stop listening to yourself.
There are times in scripture where the meaning of the text just screams out to me. Then there are times when I am done that I am just left scratching my head. Today’s reading is on of those (Matthew 17). When it comes to the transfiguration I have more questions than I have answers. I get the basics of it, God proclaiming His Son to be the Messiah, but there is still something about it I question. I guess maybe I am looking for something deeper in the text that may not be there. Hopefully by the time we cover this in our next Gospel I will have a better answer.
While the transfiguration of Jesus often trips me up, I understand what Jesus means when he is talking about mustard seeds. Mustard seeds are some of the smallest seed known to man. However, they grow into one of the largest of garden plants. One of Jesus only requirements of us is to have faith. Even little faith will do for Jesus. But, is our faith supposed to remain small? I guess it will if we don’t invest in it each and every day. If we invest in it, if we put our trust in God, then there is no way that our faith will remain the size of a mustard seed. Just think of what you could do with faith larger than a mustard seed. I bet then, moving mountains would seem incredibly easy.
So what do you struggle to grasp in the scriptures? How big is your faith? Maybe spending time each day trying to understand the hard things in scripture will help to grow your mustard size faith.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
In the past 2,000 years I believe the church has had it made. Not since the beginning days of the church has the church had to work so hard for evangelism. Not since the beginning days of the church has the church not been the norm in society. Over the last 50 years the tides have begun to shift in our culture and around the world. The church is no longer the dominating prescience it once was in society.
I believe today we are living in Biblical times. The sins our world struggles with are very close to those described in the histories of the Corinthians and other people. I believe we will soon be praying prayers much like David did in his Psalms. David’s people were constantly being oppressed by outside forces. Sometimes the oppression came from within his own boarders.
Today’s readings (Psalms 11 & 12) might be something we find ourselves lifting up to God from time to time. As you read the Old Testament and New Testament do you find our times are much like those described by the authors? I believe on close examination you will.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Today’s reading (Psalms 9 & 10) describes the way God will treat those who are wicked, those who turn from him, and those who do harm to others. Their treatment is being cut off from God. I believe that is the worst part of Hell. It will be the total separation from God, and even worse will be to never have the chance to enter back into his prescience.
These chapters also tell us that God looks after those who call on his name, those who turn to him. We are told that God defends the fatherless and oppressed, he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted, and that he will judge the world in righteousness. One thing the Psalmist says is “Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation.”
The question I have to ask myself, “Do I live thankful of the grace and mercy God has shown me?” If people look at our lives as Christians, does that grace and mercy show through? Or do we still resemble those who do not know God’s grace and mercy?
Friday, January 22, 2010
Jesus is a master teacher. He is always looking for that special moment with his disciples where he can really plant a nugget of truth. Today’s reading shows us that (Matthew 16). His disciples forget to bring bread along. Now that does not mean they do not have any food, they just did not have bread. Realizing this, they make a comment, and Jesus seizes an opportunity to teach.
One of the key ingredients in making bread is yeast. Yeast is a living organism put into bread. As the yeast lives it converts oxygen into carbon dioxide causing it the dough to rise. When the bread is baked the yeast dies off leaving air pockets. Bread without yeast, or very little yeast, is normally flat and has a tougher texture.
Jesus confuses his disciples when tells them to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their minds are thinking about physical food while Jesus is thinking about spiritual food. We can picture the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees as an additive to their teaching. Not only did they teach about the Laws of Moses they would also sprinkle in their own little teachings, their own oral law. Jesus wanted them to be careful to focus on correct teaching.
So is there any yeast creeping into your life? What laws and regulations are you putting into your life that makes it impossible for you to get close to God? Jesus calls us to guard ourselves of false teachers. Paul reminds us that in Christ we are free. It is for freedom we have been saved.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Over the course of the past few weeks I have been doing a daily devotional for anyone in the church that wants to read along. I do not know how many people are following, and I do not know if it is helping anyone, but I have learned so much.
This has been a great teaching time for me in my life. I have had to sit down and think in ways that I have not in a long time. It challenges me each day to write something devotionally from what we are reading. It has even forced me to pick a few of my commentaries to answer questions that have come up in my mind.
I decided a week ago that I was going to re-read my The Chronological Life of Christ Commentaries by Mark Moore. The first time I read them through was a as a freshman in college. Since then I have only used them as a reference tool. In college I was not prepared to learn everything that the books can teach. I have truly been blessed by re-reading the books. Christ life is becoming much more alive to me since starting this endeavor.
Maybe for those of you out there reading along with the Bible study you could start journaling. Write down some of your thoughts from each days reading. I believe this will challenge you just as it has challenged me. God bless in your endeavors to read the Bible.
Today we see a great contrast in our reading (Matthew 15). First some Pharisees come to Jesus and question him about why his disciples break the tradition of the elders. Jesus then calls them out just like he has done many other times (I picture these encounters between Jesus and the Pharisees creating great tension). Following this we see a Canaanite woman come to Jesus begging and pleading that he would heal her daughter.
The first group comes to Jesus thinking their status in eternity is set. They believe they are saved by how well they keep God’s law. This woman approaches Jesus probably out of his reputation. She is a Gentile. She is a despised person to Jewish people. But she has heard about Jesus, knows enough about Jewish people, and comes to him on her knees. Because of her faith Jesus heals her daughter.
Jesus again is foreshadowing for his disciples the future ministry they will have. While His earthly ministry was directed towards God’s chosen people, he did not leave Gentiles out. By healing this Canaanites daughter, he showed that His kingdom was not limited to Jews only. What a blessing that is for us. Jesus came so that ALL may call upon his name. Thank you God!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Her family has opted not to do a typical funeral. Instead they are going to get together as a family and have a private memorial once the cremation is finished and his ashes are returned.
At this point it does not look like we will be traveling to VA for that. Crystal's blood pressure is still a little high and they think it might be too far to travel.
Thank you again for your prayers at this time of loss.
This past week I was asked following my sermon what Jesus meant when he said “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” My belief is that whenever Jesus made a statement like this he was talking about priorities. I do not believe he wants us to neglect our families, and neglect the hurt of others but he wants our priorities in check. Our priorities should be as follows: God, spouse, children, Family, work, and then everything else. When Jesus made this comment he wanted the lost to worry about burying the dead. (We will have some insights on this when we get to this passage on July 1st)
Having said all of that, Jesus knows what its like to mourn. Today’s reading (Matthew 14) shows us that. Jesus has just learned that his cousin and friend was killed at the hands of Herod the tetrarch. When Jesus hears the news the first thing he does is withdraws to a solitary place. He wanted to be alone. He needed to be alone. He needed that time so that he could mourn. Jesus knows exactly what we go through each and every day. We have a savior who knows and understands what life on earth is like; especially life on earth that has been affected by sin. Can any other religion say that?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
We learned this morning that Crystal's grandfather passed away in the night from a blood clot. He had been in the hospital recovering from a surgery and was set to come home today. We are planning on going to Virginia Beach for the funeral, but don't know if Crystal will be able to go. She is possibly in the first stages of Pre-eclempsia, so that could decide the trip.
Please keep her in your prayers as she struggles with this being so far away from her family in a time like this. She has done amazing living so far away from home, but right now it really hurts.
Today’s reading (Matthew 13) seems to be all about spreading a message. Jesus relates it to farming in his current day. Today we have made farming a big industry and mechanized it to perfection. When you travel and a corn field comes up next to your road, you can often see the straight rows of corn stretching to the sky. This is a different picture than first century farmers.
When Jesus lived framing was back breaking work. A farmer would hook to an ox or other beast of burden a plow. That ox, plow, and farmer would then sweat to break up the ground. After the ground had been broken up the farmer would then load a shoulder bag with seed, and then walk through his field chucking seed throughout the field. Whereever the seed landed that is where it would grow. There were no neat rows. There was now scientific precision. It was a hit or miss process.
Sometimes the seeds would fall on different types of soil, and as Jesus describes that because of this there are different results. I think we are to spread the Word of God in a similar fashion; throwing out seeds of truth to everyone who will hear. It is our job to cast the seed, and God’s job to water and cultivate the seed. So how is your seed casting?
Monday, January 18, 2010
Have you ever had a brother, sister, or even your own child who always seemed to break the rules? So far reading through the book of Matthew I have felt this way about Jesus. In today’s reading (Matthew 12) it is no different. Here is Jesus and his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. This is a no-no for any God fearing Jew. By the time Jesus lived the Law of Moses had been carried to the extreme.
The law did not permit anyone to perform any work on the Sabbath. They were to do all of their cooking the day before. By Jesus’ day they had begun measuring from their houses the distances they were allowed to walk without it becoming work. They had carried the letter of the law to the extreme.
But Jesus told us on the Sermon on the Mount that he came to fulfill the law. Later the Apostle Paul writes that we are free from the law because we are free in Christ. So what Jesus is doing here is foreshadowing and preparing his followers, especially his disciples, for the new life they will have after the cross and after the giving of the Holy Spirit. Today, we live with freedom in Christ that is only possible because of His work on the cross and his conquering of the grave.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Today we see the possible vengeance of God (Psalms 7 & 8). David writes that “If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.” These are all instruments of war and death for those who continue to be enemies of God.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that we who are in Christ are considered a friend of God? These instruments of war are not meant for the repentant but the unrepentant. We have and adversary to stand in front of us come the day of judgment. Christ has promised he will speak for all who call upon his name and accept him as LORD.
Do you thank God for the adversary he sent for us? I know I should more often.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Today’s reading (Proverbs 3) discuses a common theme found in the book of Proverbs; Wisdom. It talks about seeking the wisdom of God and what comes with it. If we seek wisdom like one searching for silver then we will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Now most of us in our lives pray for wisdom. We seek God’s wisdom, guidance, and discretion in our lives, but do we ask for that same thing in others lives, particularly the ones we have asked to lead us. We should pray for our political leaders, our church leaders, and even the leaders of our civic groups and organizations.
Today let me challenge you to prayer for the leaders of our country that they seek God’s leadership, wisdom and discretion.
Prayer that our church leaders will seek the leadership and discretion of God as they work to take Christ church to all people.
Prayer for those who work with your children or grandchildren that they will lead and inspire your kids to find God’s guidance in their lives.
Friday, January 15, 2010
So today we see a little of Jesus’ humor (Matthew 11). Jesus has been asked by the followers of John if he is actually the one John was preparing the way for. Jesus tells them he is, and as they are walking away he begins to question people about why they went to John. Towards the end of the discussion Jesus shares these words:
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”
Jesus asks them which way they want it. Are they going to accuse the prophet because he abstains and reject the messiah because he participates? Sometimes I think we struggle with the same mindset of the people. We want to abstain from everything that can be perceived evil. Jesus however did not do that. He went were “sinners” were. He was willing to meet them on their level. He was willing to meet them so that he could reach them. I am not saying we need to go to a strip club so that we can open a door to share the message of Christ. But, would it hurt for us to go where people are to build relationship as we seek to bring life change? Give me your thoughts on this idea in the comment section below.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Jason and James do a great job with the video in what appears to be Norfolk, VA.
If you are looking for today's Bible reading go to the next post.
There are many out there that teach a health and wellness version of the gospel message. This message states that if you follow Christ, if you give to his church, if you tell others about him then your life will be full of good health and ample resources. But as we look around, we know that this is not the case. We see people all around us who are hurting from divorce, who are afflicted with tumors, who are laid-off from work. We witnessed the devastation caused on Tuesday by the earthquake in Haiti. Does this mean the people afflicted are not good Christians? Absolutely not!
In Today’s reading (Matthew 10) Jesus is sending out his 12 disciples into the surrounding area. These will be the 12 men, excluding Judas, who will eventually turn the world upside down with the Gospel message. As he is sending them out he warns them about the hardships that they will face.
“Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.”
“All men will hate you because of me”
What a wonderful promise Jesus gives to his disciples! :) But no where in Scripture are we promised that if we follow Christ we are going to live a life without hardships. It is not the world we are living for, it is eternal life in heaven. There our reward is. There the hardships end. There peace reigns. Jesus does promise this… "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Why did Jesus come to this earth? He came for one reason, to heal and restore the relationship between man and God voided by sin. Along the way, he spent his time healing those who were afflicted because of sin. Today’s reading (Matthew 9) outlines those very acts for us.
We must remember that personal sin is typically not the reason many of us are afflicted with diseases and hardships. These things are a result of the curse of sin. However, one can be afflicted with a disease because of personal sin. The person who is sexually promiscuous may catch a sexually transmitted disease. This is a result of a personal sin. However, the person born with cerebral-palsy is not being punished for personal sins, or even their parent’s sins; it is a result of being born into a fallen world, afflicted by the curse of sin.
That is why Jesus had to come. Sin had separated man and God from having the relationship He desired. While on his way to the cross Jesus gave some foreshadowing of what it will be like in heaven. No more disease, no more death, no more hardships, no more separation from God. His healings showed that his salvation brought about perfection, healthiness, and the privilege of being in the prescience of God.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
When I was in Bible College I took a class called Hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the art of studying the scriptures. We learned to dissect the scriptures in our English language to find the best possible understanding. Another thing we learned is that sometimes stories are in chronological order and other times they are grouped by theme. While today’s reading (Matthew 8) suggest that it is probably in chronological order, it is very evident that it is organized around the theme … faith.
Each individual story of the passage deals with faith. Whether it is the man with leprosy, the centurion, demon possessed crowds, or even the disciples in the boat, Jesus responds to different levels of faith. We see some humbly approach Jesus with great faith, while others approach him with a more shallow faith. Even his own disciples approach him with a weak faith when they ask “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
However, there is one group that approaches him with outstanding faith. Their faith in Jesus does not waiver; they know exactly who he is, they know why he has come. This group was the demons possessing the people in the area of the Gadarenes. They know their fait, but yet the reject Jesus all the same.
So where is your faith? Is it like the man who came to Jesus, but wanted to follow him after he buried his dead? You want to follow Jesus on your own terms at your own time. Or is your faith one that resembles the demons? You know who Jesus is, you know your punishment, but you reject him as lord of your life. Or does your faith resemble that of the centurion? Humbly bowing at his prescience allowing him to do the work only he can do.
Monday, January 11, 2010
So while reading today’s reading (Matthew 7) I could not help but think of the Pharisee. The presence of this group of Jewish men is never mentioned in this passage but you could almost guess that some are present. With the words Jesus uses, I am sure they were on the minds of the people there.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your bothers’ eye and pay not attention to the plank in your own eye?”
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Now Jesus never mentions the ruling class of Jewish clergy, but I am sure they were on his mind. Jesus is bold in the statements that he makes, and soon we will see him call them out. I do know this, the Pharisees were on the minds of the people … “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teachings, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
If you examined your heart, would you classify yourself as a Pharisee? I know at times I could.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Two separate things stand out in today’s reading (Psalms 5 & 6).
Do you thank God for the peace and refuge you have in Him? David, the writer of this Psalm, thinks you should. “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.” As followers of Christ we have much to be thankful for, much to be glad of, and much to sing praises of. I know in my life I can do a better job of praising God. I know in my life I can do a better job of being glad for his peace and refuge.
The second thing that stood out was this passage, “The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.” While God’s answers are not always what I would like them to be, God hears my prayers. He hears my cries, my please, my praises, and he accepts them.
It is because of His accepting nature I can find peace and refuge in God. It is because of that I have much to be glad for and can praise God about.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Each day I will be posting from the daily Bible Reading plan we will be doing at West Side. On weekdays we will be going through the New Testament. On the weekends we will read passages from the Old Testament books of Psalms and Proverbs. We invite you to join along.
Todays reading (Psalms 3 & 4) reminds us of the continual peace, comfort, protection, and deliverance we have from God.
But you are a shield around me. O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
From the LORD comes deliverance.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
We can take comfort in the fact that the God we serve loves us and cares for us daily. He protects us, delivers us, and loves us each. What a wonderful God we have!
Friday, January 8, 2010
What are your motives? In today’s reading (Matthew 6) Jesus seems somewhat concerned with the motives of others. He starts off this part of his Sermon on the Mount by stating “be careful not to do you ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.” He then lists these acts of righteousness as follows:
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.”
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.”
In each of these things Jesus tells us that they are between you and God. We do not pray, fast, or give so that others may see and praise us. Our treasure for these things is in heaven. I wander then how much of a coincidence it is that the next thing Jesus talks about is our treasures in heaven, and the idea of worrying. If we are doing things for man, we worry what they will think. If we are doing these things for God, then our treasure in heaven is being built up.
When you search your heart, who could you honestly say you are doing your acts of righteousness for? What does your treasure in heaven look like?
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Matthew 5 is a long passage to do a short little devotion on. However, as I read through it one theme rose from the red letters. Jesus is taking everything to the next level. In everything he discussed; murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, reactions to evil, love for enemies, he took them to the next level. The Law of Moses deals with actions, but Jesus’ words deal with the heart. Jesus’ words deal with motives behind the forbidden actions…looking at a women lustfully, swearing of oaths, and harboring of anger against your brother.
Jesus says, “that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus said that because he was God. He was the only person sitting there on that mount who was pure, who was 100% righteous. That is also why he could take these things to the next level.
And don't you know, that because of Christ, we too are 100% righteous. Because we are 100% righteous we too can enter the kingdom of heaven. Isn't that the best blessing one could ever hope for?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I have tried fasting several times. I am sad to report that at this time it is a spiritual discipline I have not completely mastered. I tried it in college when we would do campus wide fast, I tried it while searching for new ministries, and I have done it at big developments in my life. For some reason, when I am supposed to be focusing on meditating, I find my self dreaming of a steak.
Because I cannot get through 12 or 24 hours, I struggle to imagine how Christ did it for 40 straight days as we find in Matthew 4. For forty days after his baptism Jesus was in the wilderness fasting. Somewhere along the way Satan arrives and begins to tempt him. Satan is a master deceiver. He tempts Jesus at his weakest moments with things that will really meet his needs. First he begins with the flesh. Jesus is hungry and Satan offers food. Then Satan tempts him with the boastful pride of life. Jewish tradition says that the people were looking for the Messiah to appear at the highest point of the temple. This would have given Jesus the credibility of the people, but would have defeated the point for which he came. The final temptation was the promise of the world, that Jesus could have authority over all. However, he already does. Jesus defeats all three temptations by quoting Scripture.
We learn that when we become a Christian, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That means we have the hand of Christ helping us as we strive to live for him. If Jesus can easily combat temptations at a very week time in his life, then how much stronger can we be at times of temptation in our life when he is providing us strength. Are you tapping into the strength provided by Christ?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Throughout the New Testament we encounter two of the ruling sects of Jewish culture during the time of Jesus; the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These two groups made up the Jewish “court” called the Sanhedrin. These groups were well trained in the Hebrew Scriptures … our Old Testament … and did their best to try and impose the laws and decrees upon the people. Sometimes the Pharisees would impose their own oral laws and traditions upon the people as well. While doing this they were also known to be double sided. Their outward appearance looking great, but inside sin and hatred ruled.
In today’s reading (Matthew 3), John, Jesus’ cousin, is preparing the way for Christ to come. He encounters the Pharisees and Sadducees while he was baptizing. He knows their hearts. He calls them out and tells them to correct their lives, to live as one producing good fruit. He then gives the warning that an ax is ready to cut down trees that are not producing good fruit. What a bold statement he makes to these respected men. He confronts them, even possibly embarrass them, but in it he spoke the truth.
If John were here today and you showed up at the place he was baptizing, what words would he have for you? Would he call you out in front of the masses, or would he know your heart and see its pure intentions?
Monday, January 4, 2010
After reading today’s passage (Matthew 2), the determination of God really struck me. I know from the fall of man God had a plan to restore his relationship with us, but his determination to do so really stuck out today. Three times in this chapter Old Testament prophets are referenced to and quoted. God planned where the Christ child would be born … Bethlehem …. the killing of the boys two years and under …. and that Jesus would be a Nazarene.
God had the insight and foreknowledge to know how all this would play out. He used the emperor of the Roman world to bring Joseph to Bethlehem, he used a wicked king and several wise men to bring horrible death upon baby boys, and he sent an angel to direct Joseph to take the child back to Nazareth.
Now, God’s plan for you won’t be to be the savior of the world, however, it will still have a kingdom impact. How is God working in your life? Do you know he has great plans for you? Are you allowing him to work out those plans in your life today?
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Today begins our adventure through the book of Psalms. The word Psalm means song or a hymn. Many believe that the book of Psalms is an ancient song book of God's people. The book is authored by many different people; King David, David’s chief musician Asaph, Moses, Solomon, Korah … possible temple singers, and a multitude of unnamed people. Just like we cherish the great hymns composed by John Wesley, Fanny J. Crosby, & John Newton, the Israelites cherished these Psalms.
Today’s reading (Psalms 1 & 2) details two different worlds. One is rule by evil hearts and the other ... ruled by the love and compassion of God. We are given great insight into the comfort or distress we may have depending on which camp we reside. “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” When we are in God, we will be taken care of, but there will be a bitter end to those who are not in God. God's protection however, doesn't come without trial, but does provide the hope of eternal life.
“For his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Where do you reside? Will you be on the side of the wrath or on the side of refuge?
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Today begins our journey through the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book of short sayings that tend to be true from life experience. Proverbs however are not promises. If that were the case Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” would always come true. While that tends to be true it is not always the case. Proverbs are also not commands. So how do we use the book of Proverbs? We must remember that they are general principles of life tested by the ages applicable to everyone.
Today’s reading, Proverbs 1, is consumed with the idea of wisdom. Verse 7 stands out when it says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Do you seek knowledge or do you despise it? Do you grow in knowledge every day or do you allow nuggets of truth in one ear and out the other?
I love knowledge. If I could I would spend all day searching through articles on Wikipedia learning everything I could about anything possible. But is this beneficial knowledge? What is good Knowledge? What is bad knowledge? According to scripture good knowledge is fear of the Lord. Knowing who he is, knowing what he does, knowing his grace and love and his wrath is what we are to be gaining each day.
How does your knowledge stack up? Do you fear God, or do you fall into the category of the fool?
Friday, January 1, 2010
Our first reading comes from the Matthew 1. This is probably not the most exciting passage of scripture you have ever read, but it does pack a punch. Matthew 1 begins with introducing a bunch of people who had kids, from Abraham all the way down to Joseph who became the adoptive father of Jesus. The writer Matthew does something that many people of that day would not do; he included women into the genealogy of Jesus. But these were not your run of the mill house wives; these were women who had some sort of a twisted past.
Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with her father in law Judah, because he had not given her to his third son as his wife. She conceived and bore her father-in-law twin sons, Perez and Zerah. (Genesis 38)
Rahab was a professional prostitute. When two spies were checking out Jericho, she hid them, lied to their pursuers, and took care of them. Because of that God blessed her by rescuing her from the destruction, and allowed her to live among his people. (Joshua 2 & Joshua 6:22-25)
Ruth was a Moabite woman whose father-in-law and husband passed away. Her mother-in-law was an outsider living in the land of Moab who chose to return back to Bethlehem, and she decided to go. She became the provider for her mother-in-law through the rule of the kinsman redeemer Boaz. (Ruth)
Bathsheba caught the eye of the king one evening while bathing on the roof. While her husband was away fighting a war, she had an affair when summoned by the king. The king murdered her husband once he learned she was pregnant. That child died, but the king, David, took her as a wife. Their next child was Solomon, one of the greatest kings of Israel. (2 Samuel 11)
Though these women had a complex and sometimes ugly past God used them to bring the savior of the world to us. They are just a glimpse into the grace that God will make available to all of mankind. Jesus, the perfect, comes from perfection to save imperfection. That can only be the plan of God.
If you do not attend West Side and you would like the reading plan, please leave your email in the comments section and I will send you a copy.