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.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 23, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 113, Leviticus 19, Isaiah 24, Galatians 4

Psalm 113 -
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Have you ever sung the modern day worship song based upon this song? It's one of my favorites. The simplicity of the words and the cry of the psalmist are humbling. God deserves our praise all day long. He is worthy of our praise.

Leviticus 19 2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

Leviticus 19 reminds me more of a chapter out of Proverbs than it does the Levitical law. The chapter is full of wise admonitions for the Children of Israel. It begins by telling the people to be holly, because God is holy,. This is not the first time that we have read this. God desires His people to be a generation that is set apart unto Him. We live lives that look different than the rest of the world, and He gives us the power to live pure lives.

9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

What a beautiful principle. God wanted His children to take care of the poor and oppressed. It was important to Him that we not hoard everything we produce, but that some be left for those who were poor and destitute. This principle is seen lived out in the book of Ruth, when Boaz leaves out food for Ruth and Naomi.

18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

God makes it clear from the beginning that love is what He desires to see in us whether it is in our relationship with Him or others. This includes not holding a grudge against someone, even if you have the "right" to do so. Forgiveness is one of the legs that love stands on.

31 Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.

I believe that Christians have become far to lax in our day in age when it comes to evil and the occult. There is no question that seeking out the advice of psychics, palm reader, etc. is forbidden in Scripture. This would also apply to exposing ourselves to things like witchcraft, paganism, etc.

32 You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

Do you have some elderly people that God has brought into your life? If so, thank the Lord. They are a gift to you. We need to honor those who are older than us. We need to honor their wisdom and experience. We need to seek them out. And, we need to help them when they have a need, sometimes before they even ask.

Isaiah 24 - Isaiah 24 speaks about the judgement that shall come upon the entire earth when God pours out his wrath. I did not add any notes to this section of my Bible.

Galatians 4 -

3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

These are some of the most beautiful verses in Scripture referring to the deep theological truth that God has adopted those of us who are followers of Christ as his daughters and sons. He has set us free from bondage to slavery and given us all of the rights and position of his children. We are princesses and princes in the kingdom of Heaven.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 22, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 112, Leviticus 18, Isaiah 23, Galatians 3

Psalm 112 -
7 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.

Psalm 112 is a psalm about the righteous. Verse seven particularly ministers to me. There are many times that I fear bad news. In my natural self, bad news about any number of things can set me back. I'm challenged as I read this verse. The psalmist is talking about not fearing bad news about a battle, because ultimately God will prevail. But, I believe that the principle is transferable to other areas of our life as well. It comes down to trust. Do we trust that God is control or not? If God is in control then even bad news should not shake our faith. We need to look at it as an opportunity to grow in our walk with God and to strengthen our faith.

Leviticus 18 - 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 18 records the laws concerning unlawful sexual relations. "But, everybody else is doing it," may have been the cry of the Israelites. God wanted his people to be different than the rest of the world. A society's lax attitude towards sexual sin is one of the markers that the society is in danger. The spread of sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, broken hearts, and more can be traced to sexual immorality.

Isaiah 23 - Isaiah's oracle concerning Tyre and Sidon is interesting. This seaport region was a powerful city. Important to the trade routes of many countries, it was a wealthy city and a popular and sinful destination. The lack of the fear of the Lord would lead to their being punished but the chapter ends with the hope that at the end of 70 years, God would once again bless this city. He would make their goods holy. He would supply food, materials, etc. for His children through this punished region.

Galatians 3 - 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

I read this verse, coming out of the Easter holiday just a few weeks back with a deep appreciation for what Christ did for me at Calvary. He became a curse so that I might be redeemed. It reminds me of the popular line from the song Amazing Love, which says, "I"m forgiven because He was forsaken. I'm accepted He was condemned. I'm alive and well and His Spirit lives within me, because you died and rose for me."

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

What a beautiful picture of the ground being level at the foot of the cross. The cross changed everything. How beautiful that the grace of God now extended to Jews and Gentiles.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 21, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 111, Leviticus 17, Isaiah 22, Galatians 2

Psalm 111
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.

What a beautiful and fitting description of the work of the Lord. Have you ever partnered with God in His work? It's an amazing and awe-inspiring process. I had a chance recently to see God just perform miraculous works in the life of a person that I know. It was so great to see their despair turn to hope, and their hope turn into reality. Keep your eyes out for where God is at work, and join him. His work is the best!

7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; 8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

Do you ever just need to see the proof of something before you will believe it? I do. And, sometimes I need to be reminded of a truth that I know by seeing it on paper, in a life, or on a screen, right in front of me. These verses are like that. I need reminders many times about the faithful and just work of the Lord. I need to be reminded that He is trustworthy. I need to be reminded that even though following Him can sometimes hurt, it is always worth it. If God says that He will do something, He will. Take confidence in Him today!

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! -

I was fortunate enough to spend my elementary years as a student at the Wheaton Christian Grammar School. It was a good place for me and my brothers. Our school's key verse was this one. It's an appropriate verse for a Christian school, and an appropriate verse for any Christian. True wisdom begins and has its end in God. If we have no fear of God, we are ignorant and we are seeing the world through warped lenses. That is not to say that a quality education cannot happen in a secular institution. The best education should happen in our homes and in our churches. May we remember that if we are not seeking God, we are not wise. Pity the person who tries to live their life with minimal interference from God.

Leviticus 17 - This chapter deals with the laws regarding the place of the sacrifice and laws against eating blood. I did not add any notes to my Bible in this chapter.

Isaiah 22 - This chapter deals with the oracle against Jerusalem. I did not add any notes to my Bible in this chapter. But, I was stuck by the judgement that God pronounced on His holy city. It was sad to see God have to punish the city He loved so much.

Galatians 2 - 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Aren't you glad that we aren't made right before Christ because of our good works? It is God who justifies, through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness, new life, hope, joy, peace, true love cannot be found apart from Jesus. He is our hope and our salvation.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is always a tough verse to read, because we see in it the demands that are placed on the follower of Jesus Christ. To be a follower of Jesus requires that it is He who lives in us, and not ourselves. We die to our desires to live for His desires. And, that is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 19, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 109, Leviticus 15, Isaiah 19-20, Galatians 1:1-10

Psalm 109 -
4 In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer

This is a psalm of David. He is praying that God will bring him relief from those who would seek to oppress him. I appreciate David's words in verse four. He is seeking to show love to people, and David is treated with accusations. Ever been there? I have. It's a painful place to be. So, what's David's response? He gives himself to prayer. Not complaining. Not whining to anyone who will listen. Not badmouthing his accusers. He simply goes to God in prayer. What a great model for us.

Leviticus 15 - This chapter dealt with the Old Testament laws concerning discharge from the human body, and when a man or a woman was considered unclean. As I read sections of Scripture like this one I am reminded that God created human beings and that our bodies are not anything to be ashamed of. The notes from the ESV Literary Study Bible for this passage say, "Again we need to abandon all squeamishness about the physical body and its discharges. A byproduct of these regulations is that we are given to understand that God created people as biological creatures and that we need to come to terms with our physical bodies." Well put.

Isaiah 19-20 - God's judgment against the Egypt during the time of Isaiah is written of in Isaiah 19-20. These chapters of Isaiah deal with God's judgment of much of the ancient near east world. What we see in these chapters is a picture of God's wrath against nations that have turned their back upon Him and become an enemy to His chosen people. We love to talk about the grace of God, but we don't like to think of God's wrath. If you are a recipient of God's grace today, thank Him, and tell others of His infinite mercy to those who will humble themselves and trust Him as Savior and Lord.

Galatians 1:1-10 - 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Wow! Do you get the idea that Paul was passionate about the Gospel? He cared so deeply about the truth. Yesterday in church, we talked about truth, and the importance of getting the truth right. As a pastor I am often times awed that God would allow me to communicate the timeless truths of His Word. I want to be so careful that the words that I share are true, and not just my opinion. Why? Because the Gospel; the Good News of Jesus Christ, is the most important thing on earth to communicate. I never want to preach a Gospel that is contrary to what God has taught us in His Word. If you are in a church that doesn't teach the Gospel, leave. Find a church that does. It's important that we don't waste our time in places that get the Gospel wrong, or ignore it altogether.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 18, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 108, Leviticus 14:33‐57, Isaiah 17‐18, 2 Corinthians 12:14‐13:14

Psalm 108 -
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

Psalm 108 is a psalm of David, and as he does in many places, David emphasizes the glory of God. God's glory is displayed throughout the earth. It is displayed above the heavens. But, there was something in David's writing that inferred that he wanted to glorify God everywhere that he went as well. I love people like King David. Those who truly glorify God with their life are inspiring and encouraging people.

Leviticus 14:33‐57 - This passage deals with the laws for cleaning houses where cases of leprous disease have been. I did not add anything to the notes of my Bible in this section.

Isaiah 17‐18 - 1b Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins.

What awful words! Think about being a resident of Damascus and hearing this oracle delivered to you. The city of Damascus had so enraged God that destruction was their ultimate end.

10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,11 though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain.

It's too easy to forget the good things that God has done for us. What is it about human beings that makes us want to be so self-reliant, and to take credit for the things that God deserves credit for?

Isaiah 18 is an oracle concerning Cush. I added no notes to my Bible in this section.

2 Corinthians 12:14‐13:14 - 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul's pastor's heart is shown in this passage. His concern for the Corinthian believers and the Corinthian church is so evident in these words. He is sickened by some of the things that he hears are going on in the church.

5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Paul warns those who are living lives that don't glorify God that they should examine themselves to see if they are truly Christians. Paul's advice is good for all of us. It's important to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. When our lives look no different than the world around us, when we run to the same things that the world runs to, and when we don't run to God, then we need to ask the tough questions.

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

When I was in high school, this was my life's verse! Okay, just kidding. But, the Eastern European church still practices this. I'll never forget my first time speaking in Russia and being kissed by all of the believers in the church. While it seemed strange to me as a western Christian, it was really a beautiful picture of the love that the Russian believers had for one another.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 16, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 106, Leviticus 13, Isaiah 13‐14, 2 Cor 10:1‐12

Psalm 106 -
6 Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.

I appreciate the fact that the writer of Psalm 106 confesses the sin of his people, not just the sins of the ancestors of his people. Psalm 106 is a historical look at the grievous sins of the Children of Israel. Throughout the history of the great nation, there had been sin. Over and over again the Israelites turned from the God of Israel to pagan gods. And, over and over again God forgave them. When we have sinned, we need to confess it. We need to own up to the fact that we have sinned. And, we need to turn from that sin and to God. Don't blame others for the sin in your life. Humanity has been doing that from the beginning (see Adam blaming Eve for his sin in Genesis 3) and it's not very original.

20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

In the long litany of sins that the psalmist writes regarding the Israelites relationship to God, this one stuck out to me. It seems crazy to me that a group of people would exchange the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. How stupid can you be? And yet, so many of us do the same thing today. We trade the glory of God for our own pleasures that cannot now, or ever, compare to God's glory. Don't be like the Children of Israel! Worship God, and God only. Nothing else is worth it.

Leviticus 13 - This chapter concerns itself with the laws about leprosy. Leprosy was a terrible and all too common disease in the ancient near east world. It's sad to read how difficult life was for those who struggled with the disease.

Isaiah 13-14 - 11 I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.

The proud Babylonian people had ignored God. They tried to make a mockery of the Jewish religion. But, God warns Babylon that judgment is coming.

In Is. 14:12-20 there is a major parallel shown between the fall of the King of Babylon and the fall from heaven of Lucifer. It's fascinating reading, and some of the most important teaching on Satan in all of the Bible.

2 Corinthians 10:1-12 - 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

There is something so beautiful about Paul's defense of his ministry in this section of Scripture. I love that Paul and his partners in ministry were taking every thought captive, so that they might obey Christ. This is never easy but always worth it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 15, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 105, Leviticus 12, Isaiah 11‐12, 2 Corinthians 8‐9

Psalm 105 -
1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;make known his deeds among the peoples!

What has God done for you? Tough question? Well that all depends upon your perspective. If you think it's tough because you can't think of what He's done, you are probably not looking hard enough. In reality, it's a tough question because to say what God has done for us would take us forever to answer. God has blessed us in more ways than we can imagine. And, He wants us to make His deeds known among our friends, family, strangers, everyone! God wants us to tell others about Him. When prayer is answered we should rejoice -- and tell others about it! When we are blessed with health or material things or family or friends, we should rejoice -- and tell others about it! God is worth making known among the peoples. This entire Psalm is a song dedicated to the faithfulness of God. Included are some of Israel's greatest triumphs, which came directly because of the intervention of God.

4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Here lies some of the greatest wisdom in the Bible. There is nothing better than seeking the presence of the Lord. Why is it that we run from His presence so often? Want real lasting joy? Seek Him! Want peace? Seek Him! Want love? Seek Him! May we be seekers of God! There is a common Christmas slogan that says, "Wise men still seek Him." It's true. Seek Him!

Leviticus 12 - Leviticus 12 is part of the Levitical law concerning cleanness and uncleanness. This chapter dealt with the purification of a woman after childbirth.

Isaiah 11-12 - These two chapters from Isaiah are two of the most beautiful prophecies of Messiah in all of Scripture. Chapter eleven describes what the Messiah will be like, and the blessing that He will bring. Chapter twelve describes the joy that the people will respond with after Messiah comes. We, who know that Jesus is the Messiah, have been blessed to see the difference that Jesus makes in our lives, our families, our community and our world.

2 Corinthians 8-9 - 18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel.

There is a bit of mystery about who this famous preacher is that is mentioned in 2 Cor. 8:18. I love this verse for several reasons. Number one, it affirms that even in the early church, there was need for gifted communicators to travel from church to church, city to city, to tell others about Christ. I think of this preacher as being an early Billy Graham or D.L. Moody type evangelist. Second, I like it that even though he was famous at the time, we have no idea who he is today. There will come a day when people may forget who Graham and Moody were, but they will not forget Jesus. What was important was not that this man was famous and gifted preacher, but that Jesus was Who he preached. May those of us who have the privilege of teaching, never get in the way of the message. Jesus is worth making known to the world, not us.

I also like it because the man could not have accomplished what he did apart from Titus. We know the name of the servant but not the preacher. How cool is that? Praise God for the Titus like people that support pastors, missionaries and evangelists so that the Gospel may be spread around. We know that the church at Corinth was involved in the supporting Paul and probably this man too. Their financial support made the spread of the Gospel possible.

7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul was asking the Corinthian church to give an offering for the church in Jerusalem. There was a huge need in the Jerusalem church, and Paul knew that the gift from Corinth would be a blessing and an encouragement to those in Jerusalem. I love how Paul asked for money and the attitude with which he wanted the people of Corinth to give. Giving is a privilege to those who are followers of Christ. Our gifts to God should be a part of our worship to Him. We should lovingly give back to God a portion of what He has blessed us with. Paul gives a very tender argument for this. I love that he ends his chapter with these words in verse 15. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! In other words, the gift that the Corinthians can give is a reflection of the inexpressible gift that God has given to us.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 14, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 104, Leviticus 11, Isaiah 9:8‐10:34, 2 Corinthians 6:11‐7:16

Psalm 104 -
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

It's one thing to say the words of Psalm 104:33, it's another thing to live those words. Wouldn't it be great if you could be the type of person that lived out the words of Psalm 104:33? I'd love to be someone who would sing praises to God no matter the situation that I found myself in. Unfortunately too many times I let the discouragements of a day or a week get in the way of my praise to God. It's easy to be a person who lets circumstances determine my attitude. But, that is as far from being a Spirit filled believer as I can be. If I allow the Spirit to control my life, my life's circumstances are not what get to dictate my attitude. It's instead my life's aim -- to please God. So, here's to trying afresh to sing praise to God no matter the circumstances.

Leviticus 11 - 44a For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.

I love this verse! Tucked towards the end of the Levitical law concerning clean and unclean animals is God's admonition to us to be holy because He is holy. God has called us to be a set apart people, a peculiar people, aliens and strangers in this world. Throughout the pages of Scripture, from Old Testament to New Testament is seen the heartbeat of God for His people. We can be holy if we will allow God's Spirit to rule our lives.

Isaiah 9:8-10:34 - 33 Behold, the Lord God of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low. 34 He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.

In this part of Isaiah's prophecy he shares the word of the Lord concerning the arrogant nations. There is judgement coming to those nations who don't fear God. While it may look like they are prospering now, God warns of the impending punishment. The Assyrian army was cut down, and God did bring this punishment to a proud and arrogant nation that had mocked Him and His people.

Isaiah's prophecy was meant for specific nations, but all nations who do not fear the Lord will eventually face His judgment. God deserves to be honored in the land. That happens when the people of God take a stand for Him. When the church honors God, it has an impact on all aspects of society.

2 Corinthians 6:11-7:16 - 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

God is passionate that the closest relationships that Christians should have are with other Christians. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't have non-Christian friends that are close, but our closest friendship should be with like-minded believers. Why? Because, we become like those we spend time with. If Christ is the most important part of our lives, we should be able to share Him with others. We ought to be in close relationships with people who are going to encourage us in our faith. We should be business partners with people who share our values, whose sense of right and wrong comes from God, not from their gut. Our life partners, our spouses, those we date, etc. should be Christians who share our values.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 13, 2010

Psalm 103, Leviticus 10, Isaiah 9:1‐7, 2 Corinthians 5:11‐6:10

Psalm 103 -
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

David begins this psalm with words that reflect what the rest of the psalm will look like. David clearly wants to speak about the wonderful God that he loves in Psalm 103. This psalm is a psalm of blessing to God. When David speaks of blessing the Lord with all that is within him, I believe that he means it. He wanted his life to be a life that praised God.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

David had experienced this type of love from God. God had been merciful to David on multiple occasions. This verse doesn't give us liberty to live however we want, because God does get angry with sin. There are consequences that come from our sin. David had felt those too.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

I believe that this is one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture concerning the love of our Lord. The description of God's love here is one of a vast and a deep love. It is a tender love. It is a forgiving love.

15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. 17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, 18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

David puts the length of a man's day in proper perspective. Our days are like the grass, that flourishes for awhile and then is gone. It is vital that we live our days to honor God. We should seek to know Him and make Him known to the next generation.

Leviticus 10 - This is a sad chapter because it records for us what happened when Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu decided not to follow God's regulations regarding offerings to the Lord. They offered a strange fire before God and God literally consumed them with fire from heaven. From the very beginning of the priesthood God wanted to show that His regulations were to be taken seriously. These men were to be holy men, set apart by God for His service. Aaron must have been stunned, for this was on the very day that His sacrifice was accepted. This is after the people had been blown away by God accepting the sacrifice with fire from heaven. What a difference a few hours would make for Aaron. Later in the day his next two sons also fail to follow God's regulations and they receive a tongue lashing from Moses. May we be serious in our worship of God!

Isaiah 9:1-7 - 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah gave his people the wonderful message that there was hope coming. And, hope would come in the form of the Messiah. I love Isaiah's names for Messiah in verses 6-7. Handel was so moved by Isaiah's words that he penned one of the most beautiful pieces of music in history. What is your favorite title given for Messiah in these verses?

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:10 -

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

So why do you live? Is it for your glory or His? Throughout today's readings we have been exposed to the fact that our lives are to be about Him. He wants us to be involved in the ministry of reconciliation. We are to help bring those who know nothing of God to the foot of the cross. What a privilege!

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ambassadors from the United States are appointed to serve as liasons from our country to foreign countries. These men and women have an important job. It is crucial that they act in the best interest of the United States, but also that they represent us well. We too should act in the best interest of God and make Him look good wherever we go.

2b - Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. -

I will often times refer to this verse when I am sharing the Gospel with others. Last Easter I watched the late Easter service from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. I loved listening to their pastor, Mark Driscoll, as he challenged people to convert to Christianity. He said, "Some of you are like . . . What? Are you trying to convert me? Yes! I am trying to convert you! There is nothing better than being a Christian . . ." He was right. There is nothing better. This world pales in comparison. Today is the day. Now is the day of salvation. Have you committed your life to Christ? If you'd like more information on how to do that e-mail me at bschulenburg@wccmn.org, or call 1-800-NEED-HIM.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 12, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 102, Leviticus 9, Isaiah 7‐8, 2 Corinthians 4:1‐5:10

Psalm 102 -
3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;he has shortened my days.26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Psalm 102 is a prayer from a person that is afflicted. The man is upset at God. He feels like God has hidden his face from him. And then, he comes to grips with the eternality of God and the fact that each of our lives are but a blip on the screen of eternity. What is your life about? Is it about His story or yours. A few year's back I read Louie Giglio's book I Am Not, but I know I AM. It's a great book that puts our place on the world's stage in its proper perspective. Let's find a way to make less of us and more of Jesus. Remember, our days are but a mist. Only what is done for Christ will last.

Leviticus 9 - 22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

The title of this chapter in my Bible says in a very understated way, The Lord Accepts Aaron's Offering. Aaron and his sons had just been ordained as the priests of Israel. And now, Aaron was bringing the first sin offering before the Lord on behalf of the people. To say that the Lord accepted the offering is an understatement! Aaron followed the procedures that God had set forth earlier in the book of Leviticus. And when he and Moses went into the tent of meeting, God showed up. He sent fire from Heaven and literally consumed the offering with fire. God showed up! And, God forgave. God's acceptance of the sin offering was the Old Testament symbol that He had forgiven the sins of the people. What a picture. As God consumed the offering, it existed no more. The offering was gone, and God remembered their sins no more! God had forgiven. And, He wants to do the same for you. 1 John 1:9 tells us that when we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He will forgive you, if you'll ask. Let today be the day of fresh start for you and God!

Isaiah 7-8 - 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 6-12 speaks of God's plans for the future of His people. He has a remnant that will be faithful to Him no matter what. In Isaiah 7:14 we read about the coming of Messiah. God promises that Immanuel will come and that He will be born of a virgin. This is not just a young woman, it means a literal virgin. The ESV Study Bible has some terrific notes on this prophetic passage. It would be worth your time to read them.

2 Corinthians 4:1‐5:10 - Paul longs for heaven as he writes in this passage. He writes about the troubles that this world brings, but then says that they are nothing compared to what lies ahead of us in heaven. He reminds the Corinthian believers of how important it is to walk by faith and not by sight.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 11, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 101, Leviticus 8, Isaiah 6, 2 Corinthians 2:12‐3:18

Psalm 101 -
2 I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; 3 I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. 4 A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. -

King David was the writer of this Psalm. It is one of only two psalms in Book 4 of the Psalms that is attributed to David. And, there is much that we can learn about God's desires for His people here. David, as King, was to set an example for the people to follow. He writes of his desire to live a life of integrity. You can see the passion for holiness with which David sought to live. Did he always achieve that? No! He had some spectacular failures. But, in his failure, David recognized the error of his way and truly repented to his God. If the Children of Israel had learned anything over the course of their history you would think that it would be that they should not turn their backs upon God. As the men and women sang along with David's psalm, they too were saying that they desired to live blameless lives. They were promising to live with integrity of heart before the Lord. They were affirming that they would guard their eyes, the portal to our brains and all sorts of sin.

I love how David ends verse four. He says, "I will know nothing of evil." A couple years ago I sat in on a service at Wooddale Church, where Leith Anderson, the Senior Pastor of Wooddale was preaching on Romans 16. When he came to Romans 16:19, which says, "For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil," Leith said something I don't think I'll ever forget. It's okay to be naive about the things of this world. We don't need to know about every celebrity's affairs or to be in the know about every movie. It's okay to naive. Why? Because innocence of evil is something worth striving for!

Leviticus 8 - It was several years ago that I went through my ordination process with the Evangelical Free Church of America. It was quite a process that took almost four years from beginning to end. At the end of the process a service of ordination was held. Leviticus 8 records the first ordination service; the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests unto God for the Children of Israel. It's an interesting chapter, as Moses does just what God had commanded him to do in earlier chapters. I would have loved to have been there to witness this event in person. There was a great deal of care that went into each detail. The color would have been magnificent. I'm blown away at just how special Aaron's call was, and the regal clothing that was prepared for he and his sons. I can't help but think that maybe we've become too casual in the way we approach God after reading this chapter.

Isaiah 6 - Isaiah's vision of the Lord in his sixth chapter is one of the most vivid pictures that we have of the throne room of heaven in all of the Bible. It is both a beautiful and a terrifying place; beautiful because it is where God and His angels dwell; terrifying because it is where God and His angels dwell. For a human being to come before the throne of God would cause us to see our utter depravity. As Isaiah experiences his vision he sees angels whose sole function is to worship God. He sees the Lord, seated on His throne. He's blown away by the sheer size of the train of the robe that God wears. And, he sees his own depravity. "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" is the reply of Isaiah. And then God takes his guilt away.

It's then that Isaiah is presented with an assignment from God. He accepts and then finds out just how terrible the judgement will be for his people. God will harden the hearts of the people to Isaiah's message and only a few will respond. Less than ten percent will be spared. But, God has a remnant that will be faithful to Him. I wonder if I would have accepted such a tough assignment. Sometimes I wonder if that's what all of our assignments look like as we minister in this culture. So many are turning away from God. I wonder if those of us who are trying to remain faithful to the true God of Scripture are going to face Isaiah like challenges in the days and years ahead.

2 Corinthians 2:12‐3:18 - 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Where does your sufficiency lie? If it is in anything or anyone but Christ, it lies in the wrong place. The power that came through the Apostle Paul came because of Christ, and Christ alone. May it be for His glory and through His power that we live our lives. Paul was unlike the religious leaders of previous generations because his power came not through ritual but relationship.

16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Paul had experienced the power of the Spirit of God working through him. He was a minister of the New Covenant. No longer bound to ritual, Paul experienced freedom in his preaching. He became all things to all men so that in all ways he could reach people for the Gospel. He relished that he did not have to be timid in his relationship with God as he felt Moses had been. He was a willing spokesperson for the Lord.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 10, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 100, Leviticus 6:8-7:38, Isaiah 5, 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11

Psalm 100 -
5 - For the Lord is good;his steadfast love endures forever,and his faithfulness to all generations.- Psalm 100 was the first chapter of the Bible that I memorized. I was in Kindergarten at the time, and the student of Ms. Beatrice Killup. She had been the kindergarten teacher at the Wheaton Christian Grammar School for years. It was her tradition to teach her kids Psalm 100 in the form of a song. I still remember that song!

As I read this chapter tonight I smiled. It reminded me of the importance of passing the faith down from one generation to the next. I'm grateful for Ms. Killup, and I'm grateful for our God whose love endures forever and faithfulness is shown to all generations.

Thank you, Jesus for the cross! Your death paved the way for our salvation. I love You!

Leviticus 6:8-7:38 - Leviticus 1:1-6:7 dealt with the different offerings that the children of Israel were to bring to God. This section deals with the way that the priests were to handle the offerings. God gives instructions in the handling of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering and the peace offering. Jesus' death did away with the old system and gave us access to the throne room of Heaven. He is our High Priest and we no longer need anyone but Him to go to the Father on our behalf. Thank you, Jesus for a fresh relationship with God.

Isaiah 5 - 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! - Isaiah 5 is the last chapter to the introduction of the book of Isaiah. The sin of the nation of Israel is exhibit one in God's pronouncement of judgment against the land. Perhaps Is. 5:20 as well as any other summarizes what has gone wrong in Israel. Evil has been called good. It happens in our culture too. A woman's right to choose has been called good, even though a child's life is taken. Affairs are called good so long as they make someone happy. Pornography is celebrated even though it destroys marriages and families. We could go on and on. May we recognize the toll that calling evil good takes on a society, and may we be in tune with God enough to recognize the difference between evil and good!

2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11 - 5Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. - Paul was a determined man. He knew that He had been called to serve God in a very special way, and his passion for that call often times put him at odds with other people. That's one of the reasons that 2 Cor. 2:5-11 is so special. Here Paul takes a tender turn while considering a brother in Christ who needed forgiveness from the Corinthian church. Whatever this man had done had caused pain to the Body of Believers in Corinth, and despite that, Paul wants the church to forgive. By this point in Paul's ministry I believe that he recognized the grace of God upon His own life in such a way that He needed to extend it to others.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 9, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 99, Leviticus 5:14-6:7, Isaiah 3-4, 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Psalm 99 -
8 O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. -Tucked away towards the end of this beautiful Psalm describing the greatness and holiness of God is this verse. It comes immediately after the psalmist wrote about Moses, Aaron and Samuel; priests who interceded on behalf of the people with God. God answered their intercession. He forgave them. And, when needed, God punished them. Why? Because when we sin and God punishes our sin, it causes us to strive to live more holy lives. There is a joy that comes from walking in fellowship with God. He allowed His children to sometimes suffer chastisement for sin so that they might draw closer to Him.

Leviticus 5:14-6:7 - 17“If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the Lord's commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. - I don't know about you, but I dream of the day when I will no longer sin. Sometimes when we sin, we are not aware of the fact that we have done something wrong. Maybe we are aware of it, but choose to ignore it. We know it's not right to hold a grudge, but we feel so justified in doing so. Or, we think who will this really hurt? Often times when we sin like this we are ignoring the voice of the Holy Spirit in our life. But, the Holy Spirit won't stop His work of conviction in us. Like Old Testament saints, when we become aware of the fact that we have sinned, we should go to our priest -- Jesus, and confess the sin. I can think of many times in my life where I have asked Christ to forgive me of something that I did long ago. It is important to look at sin the way that Christ looks at sin. It is ugly. It put Him on the cross. But, with His strength at work within us, we can have victory over any sin that comes our way. Not that we will reach sinless perfection on earth, but that we have the power, through His Holy Spirit to walk away from sin and ask for forgiveness. Our God is the God of fresh starts. He loves to forgive and loves to give His children victory over sin!

Isaiah 3-4 - The tone of these chapters is one of absolute destruction. There is judgment on the way for Judah and Jerusalem. Their abandonment of God has left them to face God's judgment. Isaiah uses a lot of contrasting pictures in this chapter. Perfume smells putrid. Boys become oppressive rulers. Destruction rules the day. In 4:1 the death of most of Judah and Jerusalem's men is foretold with these words: And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”

It's sad how quickly the Children of Israel deserted the God who had blessed them so much. Their departure from following the Lord should serve as a sober reminder to all followers of Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 - 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Imagine being so persecuted for your faith that you thought that your day of death had arrived. That is what Paul had been through. The Corinthian church knew it. As he begins his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul lets them know that God has been good. He was comforted by God at his worst moments. When he thought that he was going to die, the God who raises from the dead, allowed him to triumph. That's our God! Paul was comforting the Corinthian believers with the comfort that he had received from God. If God was able to rescue him, then God could rescue them. When we go through tough times and God helps us through, we have a reason to speak hope to others.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 8, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 98, Leviticus 4:1-5:13, Isaiah 2, 1 Corinthians 16

Psalm 98 -
1a - Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! - There are several times in the Psalms that you see the instruction to sing to the Lord a new song. I like that God wants us to create new songs for Him. In other words, He doesn't want our spiritual lives to stagnate. We ought to be trying our best to learn new things about God every day. That isn't going to happen if we don't spend time praying, reading, and living in fellowship with other believers.

Have you ever heard a travelling speaker use the same stories over and over when they come to preach? Maybe it's because I was a youth pastor for so many years, but I remember hearing guys speak and wondering if God had done anything in their lives in the past 20 years! I heard the same stories year in and year out. When we are intimately connected to God, we grow, and growth brings about a new song. Let your life be a living symphony for Him.

There is another thing that I love about this Psalm. It's the many different ways to worship. From instruments to nature singing, the psalmist shows that creation sings God's glory. So should we!

Leviticus 4:1-5:13 - We've already read about a number of the offerings that the Children of Israel were instructed to give to God. Now we come upon the laws for sin offerings. It's interesting to note the classifications of people. God clearly had laws for all of his people. There are implicit instructions given for how an offering to atone for sin should look. This chapter is an important reminder for New Testament believers that sin has consequences. God has called us to live holy lives.

Isaiah 2 - 5 - O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord - Isaiah was right in the middle of prophesying God's message to the nation when he called the nation to immediate repentance. Can you relate to Isaiah? I can. Whether it's my own stubbornness or the stubbornness of someone else, far too many of us have experienced the pull away from God. Don't go! Stay faithful. Instead, replace the desire to run away with the desire to walk in the light of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 16 - The apostle Paul ends his first letter to the Corinthian believers with instructions on how to collect offerings for the saints gathered across the ancient near east world. He also tells them that he hopes to see them on his future travels. Paul's letter closes with personal greetings. I love that the Bible includes these greetings. We get a glimpse into Paul, the man. We get an even deeper understanding of the church, their bond to Paul, and how they grow spiritually.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 7, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 97, Leviticus 3, Isaiah 1, 1 Corinthians 15

Psalm 97 -
6The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.7All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods! - Psalm 97 is a song of rejoicing in the power and majesty of our God. The psalmist uses images of creation to demonstrate the power of God. I love how he mocks the powerless idols that people worship in place of the Creator God. Do you want to worship the Creator of coastlands and clouds or darkness and fire of lightning and the earth of mountains of the universe, or do you want to worship items made by man? How sad that many of us are freaking out because the god of money had died. Like those who worshipped idols in the past, we have made our own gods that we depend upon and worship. Those gods are false. They will never be God. May we recognize the power and majesty of God, this day and forevermore.

Leviticus 3 - Leviticus 3 gives us the guidelines and procedures for the peace offering. This was an offering that was given as a reminder and symbol of the covenant relationship that God had with His chosen people. The person making the offering was to offer an animal without blemish before the Lord (vs. 1 and vs.6).I think one of the reasons God asked for an animal without blemish was because He is without blemish. God's relationship with the people was perfect on His part. We need to remember that God is holy. There is no sin in him. We should strive to live holy lives too. We will never be sinless this side of heaven, but we can strive to live holy lives.

Isaiah 1 - 4Ah, sinful nation,a people laden with iniquity,offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord,they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.- Isaiah begins his book with a vision that he received from the Lord. Here he proclaims the guilt of the people of Israel. This chosen people had forsaken their God. And, God would punish them for their straying from His precepts. I'm especially struck by the words "they are utterly estranged." Have you ever been in an estranged relationship with someone? It's no fun. Now, imagine being the chosen people of God and suddenly finding yourself estranged from Him. Your sins have brought punishment. How sad to be estranged from God!

7Your country lies desolate;your cities are burned with fire;in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. 8And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. 9If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. - This is a picture of a nation that had disobeyed God coming under extreme judgment. What a sad picture. A country desolate. Cities burned with fire. There are a lot of parallels to the prophecies about the end times. But, God has saved a remnant of people who are faithful to Him.

I'm so glad that Isaiah's first chapter doesn't end after the first nine verses. There is hope. Isaiah gives us God's prescription for the nation in verses 16-19 16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;cease to do evil,17learn to do good; seek justice,correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. 18“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

It's beautiful to read about the grace of God, isn't it? Though our sins are as scarlet they shall be as white as snow! I love that picture. There is something beautiful about being pure. When is the last time you felt spiritually pure? Has it been awhile? Confess your sin. Ask for God's forgiveness. He promises us that if we confess our sins that He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). He will do it for nations when God's people repent. May we, who are children of God lead the way when it comes to confession. And, may our passions be to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless and plead the widow's case.

1 Corinthians 15 - 33Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” - Somebody once said that the greatest difference between you today and five years from now are the people you meet, the places you go and the books you read. When I was a youth pastor, I used that quote a lot. It's sad how many lives are changed forever because of the company that they keep. Who we hang out with matters. Be careful about the friends that you choose. They will rub off on you. At the same time, don't abandon your mission field.There is a fine line between loving people into the Kingdom and being drug down. Be careful, but don't forget to be a missionary every day too.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 6, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 96, Leviticus 2, Esther 9-10, 1 Corinthians 14

Psalm 96 -
1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

God has always loved when His people tell about His marvelous works to others. In the New Testament, Jesus instructed His followers to go into all nations and make disciples. The Lord desires for people who have no knowledge of Him to hear about Him. In fact, God is passionate that every nation, every tribe, every tongue would hear the works of God. May we take these words seriously. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God has spoken of this issue. How are you doing when it comes to sharing His works?

Leviticus 2 - Leviticus chapter two gives us the laws for the grain offerings. Again I'm struck by the detail that went into the instructions for how offerings should be prepared. The grain offering was an offering that was meant as a pleasing aroma to the Lord and accompanied prayer requests to the Lord.

Esther 9-10 - 9:1b - on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. - I love the way that this verse is written. The writer of Esther, writing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes sure that we all get the point that it was on the very day when the enemies of the Jews had planned for their destruction that the opposite happened. God is a powerful God with a great sense of humor. I think God delighted in the fact that those who sought to destroy His children were not only thwarted but got a dose of poetic justice.

Don't you love it when the good guy wins? I do! If ever there was an underdog, it was Mordecai. Just days before God used him to deliver the Jews, Mordecai was dressed in sackcloth and ashes, outside, yes that's right, outside, the gates of the palace. He was the ultimate outsider. The insiders wanted him dead! And, God wanted to use him. Mordecai was a willing vessel in the hands of our Powerful God. And, God loves to use humble instruments to display His marvelous works. What might God be calling you to do for Him? It's probably not saving an entire race from Genocide. But, wouldn't that be AWESOME! There are those in the world today that face terrible atrocities. Would you be willing to be a spokesperson for them? One place these atrocities are taking place is the Congo. Check out this video to see how you can be a modern day Mordecai!

Another way to be a modern day Mordecai would be to do something about human trafficking. Kerry Hilton, a missionary in Calcutta's Red Light District is making a difference by taking oppressed women off the street and providing them with skills through Freeset Bags. Watch this video about this wonderful ministry:

One other wonderful example of a modern day Mordecai is the International Justice Mission. I love what this organization does, freeing people from modern day slavery. Check out this video:

What might God be calling you to do about injustice?

10:3 -For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.

Want to know one of the characteristics that makes someone great? It's when they seek the welfare of other people. It's when they become reconcilers. It's when they are people of peace. I love that Mordecai's care for others is pointed out in this verse. What are some ways that you are presently seeking the welfare of others? If there is no way, find something that you involve yourself that will help lift others up.

1 Corinthians 14 - The gifts of prophecy and tongues were causing quite a stir in the Corinthian church. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul admits to speaking in tongues, but then says, in verses 18-19 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.- Why would Paul say this? Because tongues were being abused at Corinth. Chaos was ruling the day in public worship at Corinth. Paul wanted the church to have some guidelines for corporate worship, and he laid them down here.

The principle that is most important in 1 Corinthians 14 is this: Our spiritual gifts should be used to build up the church. The purpose of our spiritual gifts is to advance God's kingdom. When our gifts have an opportunity to build up ourselves or build up others, we should always default to building up others. Look how many times Paul uses the term "build up" in chapter 14:

4: build up himself . . . builds up the church.

5 so that the church may be built up

12 building up the church

17 but the other person is not being built up

26 let all things be done for building up

So, Christian, do you know your spiritual gift? If you need help there are some spiritual gift inventories available at my church web site in the sermon resource section at www.wccmn.org. If you know your gift, ask yourself how well you are doing in using it to build up the church. If that's not happening it's time to take a severe look at why God gave you your gift and start using it for the building up of others.

14:33 -For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. - How do you picture God? Ask a dozen people that question and you may just get a dozen different answers. We probably all have some false concepts about what God is truly like. But, verses like this one give us glimpses into the character of God. God is not a god of confusion but the God of peace. If you're praying and not getting peace, take time to pray longer, for as we spend time with Him, His will becomes more clear to us.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 5, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 95, Leviticus 1,

Psalm 95 -
1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the Lord is a great God,and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

What beautiful words the psalmist writes as he speaks about our God who is so worthy of praise. I love the picture of how God holds both the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains in His hands, and how that same God calls us the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. There is something beautiful about thinking of God as a shepherd. He cares tenderly for us. We have much to rejoice in.

Leviticus 1 - Leviticus 1 deals with the laws for burnt offerings. Great detail about how Aaron and his sons should kill each animal, how the animal should be cut up, how the fire should be arranged, the side of the altar that the sacrifice should take place, etc. But what I found poignant was the end of verses 9, 13 and 17. Each of those verses talk about the purpose of the burnt offerings. These offerings were given as a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Burnt offerings left nothing but the skin. So, these were costly offerings, extravagant even, so that God might be glorified. I wonder what the equivalent to a burnt offering might be in our society. And, I wonder when the last time I gave God a gift as extravagant as a burnt offering was?

Esther 8 - This, in my opinion,is the most beautiful chapter in the book of Esther. Haman's treachery had been exposed in Esther 7, but his plan hadn't been stemmed yet. So, in Ester 8, Esther takes another risk. Going before her king, she cries, falls at his feet, and pleads for the Jewish people. The king, who has by now exalted Mordecai agrees to Esther's request. He declares the Jews should be protected. When the edict comes down to 127 provinces, great rejoicing breaks out. I love how this chapter ends. Esther's faithfulness and the prayers of the people had resulted in answered prayers. Look what Esther 8:16-17 says, 16The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. 17And in every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.

1 Corinthians 13 - How many weddings have you been to where this passage is read? At almost every wedding that I officiate, this is read. It's a beautiful description of God's love. It's a love that cannot be shown apart from the work of His Spirit in us.

One of the things that strikes me most about 1 Corinthians 13 is that it was written to a church; a church that was struggling to love one another. And, Paul shows them the most excellent way. I love how he ends this chapter. 13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

For more on 1 Corinthians 13, you can go to the Woodbury Community Church sermons page or to the Woodbury Community Church iTunes podcast page and download the series Ultimate Love.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 4, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 94, Exodus 40, Esther 7, 1 Corinthians 12

Psalm 94 -
10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?
He who teaches man knowledge— 11 the Lord—knows the thoughts of man,that they are but a breath.

Happy Easter! It's been a good day. Today in church, I asked the question, "What would you do if you knew that today was your last day on planet earth?"

Most people will never know the day that they are going to die. Among those that do are convicted criminals, sentenced to the death penalty. Such were the men on either side of Jesus when Christ died on the cross for our sins.

While we may not know the day that we will die, God does. Psalm 94 tells us that the Lord knows the thoughts of man and that our days are but a breath. We spend so much time this side of heaven trying to make a name for us, instead of recognizing that history is truly His story. May we spend our days on the things that truly matter. May we be a people who store up treasure in heaven, recognizing that God is worth giving our very best to.

Exodus 40 - 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

In Exodus 40, God gave Moses instruction on how and when the tabernacle was to be constructed. Moses followed all of these instructions. And then something spectacular happened. The glory of the Lord filled that tabernacle!

What an impact this would have had on the children of Israel! This was a visible manifestation that God was present and that He was directing the children of Israel. Even Moses, the friend of God, the one whom God talked to on the mountain, was not allowed to enter the tent of meeting when God's presence filled it. Our God is an AWESOME God!

Esther 7 - My study Bible titles this chapter, the rescue of a nation. It's an appropriate title, as God does bring deliverance to the Jewish people, thwarting Haman's plan, and even requiring the life of Haman to be paid. But, the rescue of the Jewish people began in Esther's first chapter. These first seven chapters show what happens when we are willing to be God's people for such a time as this. God put you on this earth, at this time, in the place where He has you, for such a time as this. How are you using your influence to make a difference for Jesus Christ?

1 Corinthians 12 - 1 Corinthians' twelfth chapter has been called one of the greatest teaching on spiritual gifts in the Bible. Really, 1 Corinthians 12-14 should be taken in it's entirety as a teaching on spiritual gifts. Apparently there were some divisions in the church over which spiritual gifts were the greatest. Paul talks about all of the gifts being important for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Here are some of the things we should take from this passage:

1) Every follower of Jesus has at least one spiritual gift.

2) All of the gifts are vital to the body.

3) God has given local congregations every gift needed to accomplish his purposes.

4) When one member of the Body of Christ hurts, we all hurt.

5) There was a better way for this church to go in relation to spiritual gifts, which Paul would reveal in1 Corinthians 13. Hint: It's love!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for April 3, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 93, Exodus 39, Esther 6, 1 Corinthians 11:2-34

Psalm 93 -
Psalm 93 is a short psalm about the majesty and glory of the Lord. The psalmist uses beautiful imagery to paint a picture of our God ruling the earth which He created. He is worthy of our worship and He reigns in power. The God who created this universe, rules it. His works are mighty and even the waves obey Him.

Exodus 39 - The priestly garments are woven together in this passage. Once again we see the incredible detail and symbolism that went into that which would be used for worshipping Jehovah. There was such awe and reverence towards God in those days. The priestly gowns would have made the people think about certain aspects of God and His divine rule.

Esther 6 - I can't even imagine what Mordecai must have been thinking. He had been praying. He had been fasting. He knew that Esther had dined with the king and Haman earlier in the evening. And then . . . Haman, the enemy of the Jews came and killed him? No. Tortured him? No. Arrested him? No. He honored him! He honored Mordecai. Had Haman's heart changed? No. In God's divine plan, Haman sought honor for himself, and ended up having to give honor to one who had truly served the king. God honored Mordecai in his time. And, soon, God would deliver the Jews.

I love that fact that we have a God who says that "He exalts the humble." It doesn't always happen quickly. In fact, some will not see that exaltation until heaven. But, if you have faithfully served the Lord in humility be sure of this; God's promises always come true. Mordecai truly lived a humble and obedient life. God is looking for people who will be obedient no matter the cost. Will you be that person?

1 Corinthians 11:2-34 - This chapter of Scripture gives instructions for public worship. The church at Corinth had some serious issues. I think all churches have issues that we need to work through. It's just part of being human beings trying to live in community with one another. One of the issues the Corinthian church dealt with was the issue of whether or not women should wear head coverings in public worship. In Corinthian culture, which was incredibly sex saturated, to not wear a head covering meant that you were either single or that you were married but available. Paul asked the women who were married in that congregation to wear head coverings in worship. To not do so would have been dishonorable. In our culture this might mean wearing a wedding ring or something else to show that you are married.

Paul ends the chapter giving instruction on the Lord's Supper. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. It is also a Sunday in which our congregation will celebrate the Lord's Supper. Paul talks about the significance and the sacred attitude with which we should come to the Lord's table in verses 23-32. May these verses be a sacred reminder to you.

23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.31But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Poem for Good Friday

I wrote this poem last year on Good Friday and thought I'd repost it here. It uses the last words of Christ from the cross throughout the poem.

A Poem For Good Friday

Hoisted upon Calvary's tree
To rectify the sin in me
Jesus looked upon the crowd
Announcing in a voice so loud

"Father forgive them for they know not what they do"
Beautiful words spoken to Gentile and Jew
Callously gambling for a piece of His clothing
The soldiers oblivious man's redemption He was buying

"Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"
Crowd spoken mockery on Golgotha's sod
Criminals, on either side of the Lamb
Both facing life's final exam

"Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
Criminal's jeering words in the form of a cuss.
"Jesus remember me when You come into Your Kingdom!"
Contrasting words, heart changing, unable to stay mum.

The lips of our Lord move a second time
Responding to the one convicted of crime
Looking straight at the man, knowing all of his vice
"Today you will be with me in paradise."

That's when His gaze came upon those He loved,
Some women, a disciple and the mother beloved.
"Dear woman, here is your son," pronounced He to Mary.
"Here is your mother," to John, while so wearied.

And then in the middle of that solemn day
Darkness hovered, black sky, not just gray
He who was holy became sin, no facade
And for the first time God was separated from God

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Was the awful cry that came from that tree.
The only thing in all the world capable of dividing the Trinity
Was the sin of every man, every woman, every boy, every girl, yes even you and me.

Later knowing that all was completed
That sin and Satan would soon be defeated
Jesus, all divine, showed His humanity
"I am thirsty," He said, displaying no vanity.

When He received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished."
His time had come, His work was accomplished.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

At that moment the world reacted
But most of humanity was too distracted
To notice the veil in the temple torn in two
From top to bottom what should we construe?

That Jesus' death on the cross paved the way
For us to have access to God when we pray
The earth shook and the rocks split
On the day God was hit and we offered spit.

The bodies of some dead were raised to life that day
Holy people appeared in Jerusalem to convey
That Jesus is God, He is the way, Centurion and squad
Declared, "Surely He was the Son of God!"

No bones were broken
Prophecy spoken
Declared body piercing
Blood and water producing

As evening approached so did two powerful men
Perhaps they were remembering when
Jesus had spoken and challenged their thinking
Waiting to live for Him until the world was sinking

They took His body, wrapped it in a shroud
Just as Pontius Pilate had allowed
To the tomb He was taken
Christ had been forsaken.

Forsaken by man and forsaken by God
So great was the cost on the road that He trod
But great is the victory He won on Golgotha
A victory summed up in the word Marantha

The Lord is coming soon is the word's special meaning
Three days later, He arose and sin took a beating
He will come again soon to take those who are His
Truer words never spoken, it's the truth, that it is

Will you be like humanity's generations?
Too busy, distracted, for His interventions?
Don't miss Calvary's message of Christ's great love
Offered to all of us who are undeserving of.

- Brian Schulenburg
April 9, 2009