Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pass the Salt Has Moved

Brian's blog has moved. You can access Brian's new blog by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for May 5, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 124, Numbers 5, Isaiah 41, Philippians 1:27-2:11

Psalm 124 -
1b If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

The first half of Psalm 124:1 and Psalm 128:8 are bookends in a chapter that speaks of God's great deliverance for the Children of Israel.

Have you ever been where the people of Israel were? Have you found yourself in a place where all you could do was stand back and look in awe at all that God had done on your behalf? How would you finish this phrase: If it had not been the Lord who was on our side?

I praise God that He is for those who seek His face. He loves His children. May we, like the Children of Israel rejoice at what God has done.

Numbers 5 - Numbers 5 gives details as to how the Children of Israel were to handle leprosy, sins against others, and sexual sin.

I really like verses 5-7:

5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, 7 he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.

True repentance meant making restitution for the sin that was committed, and adding 20% more to the value of what was taken.

Isaiah 41 - 10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The role of the prophet was a difficult one. Men like Isaiah were called by God to deliver unpopular messages to people who were often times living in sin. Sometimes the prophet gave a message to a nation that was following God, but was still going to go through trial.

God gives Isaiah and the nation of Israel comfort in Isaiah 41:10. The same God who promised to uphold Isaiah, promises to uphold us. God doesn't promise us that life won't be tough. In fact, the Bible is full of passages that speak about the difficulty that we will endure this side of Heaven. Through it all, God will hold us up. When you go through a difficult time, remember that it is God who promises to be with you. I can't think of anyone else that I would want with me more.

Philippians 1:27-2:11 - 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, 9 being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I love the book of Philippians! In these verses Paul gives us some of the most beautiful verses ever written on the sacrificial love of Christ. Rather than comment on them, I'd like you to read the verses once again. Read them slowly, reflecting on each phrase. What is God saying to you?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for May 4, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 123, Numbers 3-4, Isaiah 40, Philippians 1:1-26

Psalm 123 -
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.

Is this how you look at God? It really is a beautiful picture of our relationship with Christ. He is our master. We are dependent upon Him. God expects His children to living in confident expectation of Him. He loves to work on behalf of His people, for His glory.

Numbers 3-4 - Numbers 3-4 records the census that was taken during the time of that Moses was on Mount Sinai. The children of Israel took great care to make sure that the people were counted. One of the great things about biblical genealogies is that they create a verifiable historical record of the people who were present on the earth at the time of significant historical periods.

Isaiah 40 - 31 but l they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings m like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 is one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. I can't tell you how many works of art that I have seen in my lifetime that have these words etched on a piece of canvas or clay. There is something so comforting about these words.

When I was a young youth pastor living in Washington D.C., I was invited along with our Senior Pastor to have lunch in the Senate Dining Room. Richard Halverson, the Chaplain of the Senate was our host. Many pastors were invited to lunch that day, including an inner-city pastor friend of Halverson's. Dr. Halverson asked his old friend to share with the rest of us his interpretation of Isaiah 40:31.

He said, "Oh, my brothers. Let me tell you. The Lord is so good! He is worth serving with all of our hearts. Brothers, we need to serve God like these waiters are serving us. I'm sick and tired of Christians sitting on their rear ends waiting for God to bless them. Friends, we will have our strength when we spend it on the Lord. They that wait, they that serve the Lord tirelessly, they are gonna have their strength renewed. They will rise up with wings as eagles. They will run and not faint! Brothers, we've gotta spend our lives serving the Lord."

Now, I'm pretty sure that my brother in Christ had the interpretation of the Hebrew word "wait" a little wrong. I believe that we are to wait on God and on God's timing. But, I liked what my brother said too. We need to spend our lives serving the Lord. There is no endeavor that is greater. Serve the Lord, and watch what He does.

Philippians 1:1-26 - 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Paul loved the church at Philippi. These spiritual children of his were precious in his sight. He wanted to see them experience the joy that comes from being a follower of Jesus. I'm amazed, every time I read this letter, that Paul was chained between two prison guards when he wrote it. This is a man who had such joy in Christ that even in the worst of circumstance he could rejoice.

Verses 3-6 are encouraging verses to me in my Christian life. They remind me that God is at work in my life. I'm glad that God has begun a new work in me. I want my life to bring glory to Him.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 29, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 119:89-176, Leviticus 26, Isaiah 35, Ephesians 4:17-32

Psalm 119:89-176 -
93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to learn to meditate upon Scripture. Part of the rationale was that I had never been dedicated enough to spend time each day in God's Word. So, I figured if I meditate on one verse of Scripture a day from Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, I would spend at least 176 days in a row in the Word.

Those 176 days changed my life. I grew like I had never grown before in my Christian life. As I read these words today, I was drawn to verse 93. As I remember God's precepts, I remember how He has used His Word to change me. The Word of God has literally given me life. I am grateful for God and the way that He continually works in our lives if we will allow Him to.

Leviticus 26 - When I was in grade school I learned about "If/Then" statements. If I do _________ then _________. The sentences usually talked about the consequences of behavior. That is what God does with the people of Israel in Leviticus 26. The entire book has been leading up to this chapter. The law has been laid out. Now the people find out the consequences (good and bad) of following God's precepts. When we go God's way, things go better for us. He desires the best for His children. I wonder why we don't desire the best for us.

Isaiah 35 - Isaiah 35 is a prophecy that speaks to a day when God's blessing will be poured out upon His children. Many believe that this is a prophecy concerning the millennial reign of Christ, or possibly eternity in heaven. Either way the future is bright for those who follow Christ.

Ephesians 4:17-32 - 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The Lord did not make an error when He allowed verse 32 to end this wonderful teaching on how to live the Christian life. Paul has been talking about the old life and the new life. The new life is characterized by loving others more than we love ourselves, which can be a tough thing to do. It is an impossible thing to do without extending kindness and forgiveness. Because of Christ's forgiveness we can show forgiveness to others.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 27, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 117, Leviticus 23, Isaiah 29:1‐30:17, Ephesians 2

Psalm 117 -
1 Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! - This short psalm is a beautiful example from the Old Testament of God's plan to open salvation up to all who would trust in Him. My study Bible says that Paul quoted this verse in Romans 15:11 to help argue his point that Jewish and Gentile Christians should welcome one another and worship together. I'm grateful for these encouraging words.

Leviticus 23 - This is a beautiful chapter in that it outlines the feasts that the Jewish people were to observe. These feasts are still observed across the Jewish world. I love that the weekly Sabbath was the first of those feasts that God gave instruction about. It is important to Him that we keep His Sabbath Day holy.

Isaiah 29:1‐30:17 - 13 And the Lord said:“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, 14therefore, behold,I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” 15Ah,you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

These are powerful words of warning to those who honor God with their lips but have hearts that are far from Him. Jesus used these very words to describe a group of Pharisees and Scribes in the New Testament (see Matthew 15:8-9). May He not have to say the same of us!

Ephesians 2 - 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Paul begins this section of his letter to the Ephesians by reminding them of their life before Christ, which he describes as being dead in trespasses and sin. And then, in such stunningly beautiful words Paul writes about the riches of God's grace. God's grace is a gift. We can't earn it. We don't deserve it. And that is what is so wonderful about it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 26, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 116, Leviticus 22:17‐33, Isaiah 28, Ephesians 1

Psalm 116 -
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

It is beautiful to think about what the homecoming of a Christian is like. The psalmist tells us that the moments are precious to the Lord. He looks forward to our eternal arrival. But, He also wants us to live a life that glorifies Him here until our time has come. What are you most looking forward to about your eternal home?

Leviticus 22:17‐33 - The second half of Leviticus 22 deals with offerings that are acceptable to God. He wanted the best, not animals that were lame or had defect. That tells us something about our God. He desires us to sacrifice, not just throw in a token gift every once in awhile.

Isaiah 28 - 5 In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, 6 and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

As Isaiah declares the Lord's judgment on Ephraim and Jerusalem he offers hope to those who are faithful to God. I'm encouraged when I think about the fact that God always has a remnant of people who are faithful to Him, no matter how dark the days can become. I'm also encouraged at the fact that the people still recognize the majesty and glory, the beauty and the power of Christ in these dark days.

29 This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.

How awesome that even given the difficult task of sharing these prophecies that Isaiah can rejoice in the wonderful counsel and excellent wisdom of God. Even though the religious elite may have scoffed at Isaiah, he wasn't deterred. Why should he be? He knew that if God was for him, who could stand against him.

Ephesians 1 - 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

How beautiful that even before the foundation of the world, God, knowing that we would need to be redeemed, had a plan, in Christ, to redeem us. His desire is that all would come to salvation, but only those who come through Christ can be redeemed.

Ephesians 1:16-23 - I love the depth of Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church. I can't help but wonder what the Lord might do if we prayed for each other in this way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 25, 2010

Psalm 115, Leviticus 21:1‐22:16, Isaiah 26‐27, Galatians 6

Psalm 115 -
1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! - Chris Tomlin has written a beautiful song that uses Psalm 115:1 as part of the chorus. It's called Not To Us. It's important that as Christians we live our lives in a way that makes God look good. We need to be people of our word. We need to be people who show love and kindness. We need to show God's grace to the world around us.

Leviticus 22:1-22:16 - In this passage, Moses shares the law that God has set up for the priests and their families. It's interesting that the priests had additional laws that they and their families were to follow. God wanted the spiritual leaders of His people to live lives that were above reproach.

Isaiah 26-27 - 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Perfect peace. Sounds nice, doesn't it? It's what God offers to those of us who are willing to keep our mind stayed on Christ. Isaiah goes on to show us in verse four that this peace is possible because the Lord is trustworthy at all times. He is our everlasting rock. Who are you trusting in? What are you trusting in? Is it God, money, popularity, fame, family, health? Anything other than God leads to distress, not peace. Trust in Him and experience perfect peace.

Galatians 6 - 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Paul ends his letter to the Galatian believers with the admonition to keep doing the right things. We reap what we sow. In an agrarian culture, this would have spoken volumes. Farmers know that when you plant corn, you get corn, not green beans. If we live righteous lives, we will reap righteousness. If we pursue sin, we will reap destruction. Choose wisely.