Sunday, February 28, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 28, 2010

Psalm 59, Exodus 2:23‐3:22, 2 Chronicles 32, Acts 28:16‐31

Psalm 59 -
I'm struck at the persistence with which David's enemies are painted in this chapter. Again and again the enemies come for David, and again and again David trusts in God's protection. David addresses God with the pronoun, "my Strength," in this passage. What a beautiful picture of Who God is!

Exodus 2:23-3:22 - The children of Israel may have felt abandoned by God as they lived as slaves in Egypt, but God had not forgotten them. He was raising up a servant, in the middle of the desert, to go before Pharaoh on behalf of God.

Moses was a fugitive from justice, a man with no confidence in his speaking ability, one who was raised as a Prince in Egypt by a royal family that was not his own, one of the only surviving Hebrew men that was of his age, and one who was not sure about much of anything. He was also someone that God felt that He could use.

The choice of Moses to lead the Children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt and into the Promised Land was a beautiful one. If God could use Moses to deliver a nation, He can use you to accomplish His purposes too. Let God work through you, and be amazed at what He does.

Moses offered God every excuse in the book as to why he could not be used by God. God had an answer for every one of Moses' excuses. Has God called you to do something that you have put excuses up for? God loves to take our excuses and turn them upside down. He did it with Moses, and He will do it with you. When God calls you to do something, don't make excuses, just do it!

2 Chronicles 32 - This is a remarkable chapter. Sennacherib was the king of the Assyrians. The Assyrian army was strong. They had toppled enemy after enemy. When the King of Assyria rose his armies up against King Hezekiah, and the armies of Judah, Sennacherib was cocky and confident. He was convinced that he would leave Judah in ruins. He mocked Jehovah, basically saying that God was no more powerful than the gods made of hands in the other nations that he had triumphed over.

God would not be mocked. Many times, God chooses to let people speak poorly of Him, and still "prosper" on earth. Not so this time! This time God immediately judged Sennacherib and his armies, giving Hezekiah and his armies the victory. God has told us that, "I will not be mocked." It may not come in this life, but God will get the last laugh on those who mock Him.

Acts 28:16-31 - The book of Acts ends with Paul finally preaching in Rome. He remained in Rome for two years, preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel. Luke is careful to include that Paul remained in Rome at his own expense. He wanted the people of Rome to know Jesus, and he was willing to underwrite the effort himself, so that the Romans could no God.

To get a sense of how much Paul wanted to preach in Rome, see Romans 1:11, 12, "11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 27, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 58, Exodus 1:22‐2:22, 2 Chronicles 31, Acts 27:1‐28:15

Psalm 58 -
Psalm 58 is a good reminder to the people about just who it is that judges the earth. When it seems like the evil continually prosper, the righteous can take comfort in the fact that God is the ultimate judge of the earth. He will deal with those who live wicked lives.

Exodus 1:22-2:22 - Enter Moses, one of history's most interesting figures. Moses was born to just the right family. To see how God protected Moses' life, from his very birth, is a beautiful picture of the grace and the sovereignty of God. How beautiful that Moses' own mother was able to help raise him, even though the command was to kill all Hebrew babies. God had important plans for this child.

2 Chronicles 31 - Hezekiah's good decisions continue in 2 Chronicles 31. Now, he organized the priests, making sure that the priests fulfilled the duties for which they were set apart.

A beautiful summary of Hezekiah's reign is given at the end of chapter 31: 20 Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. 21 And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered

Acts 27:1-28:15 - Paul dreamed of going to Rome. It probably wasn't his dream to go as a prisoner, but Paul looked on the bright side. God had work for Paul to do in Rome. But, along the way, God would first allow Paul to experience a shipwreck. Paul's faith before the wreck encouraged the sailors. His faith after the wreck helped transform an island. And, then after three months on an unplanned island trip, Paul finally sailed for Rome. How good it would be for Paul to be able to encourage the Christians at Rome; even if he had to do it as a prisoner! Paul always looked for opportunities to tell people about Christ.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 26, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 57, Exodus 1:1‐21, 2 Chronicles 30, Acts 25‐26

Psalm 57 -
Two times in this Psalm, David writes, "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!"

David wanted people to recognize the glory of God, and to worship Him alone. This was one of the Psalms that was written when David hid in a cave as he fled from Saul. Even in the difficulty of his situation, David was thinking about praising God!

Exodus 1:1-21 - God's chosen people have been an oppressed people throughout history. Upon the death of Joseph, and his generation, a new king came to rule over Egypt. Joseph had long since been forgotten, and the new Pharaoh feared the Israelites. He wanted the male children to be killed, because he feared how numerous the Israelites were growing in the land of Egypt. The Egyptian midwives did an honorable thing and saved the lives of the boys that Pharaoh wanted dead. But, tough times were ahead for the Israelites.

2 Chronicles 30 - - 2 Chronicles 30 is a great example of the difference that one man can make in a nation. Hezekiah loved the Lord. The people had forgotten how to love God, keep His commandments, and celebrate His festivals. Even the priests had abandoned their responsibilities.

Hezekiah called a nation to repentance and righteousness. There was initial shame felt by the people when the Passover was ready to be celebrated. This was replaced by joy when the people received the pardon and forgiveness of God.

We should be a people that seek to live righteous lives. We ought to run to the things of God and run from the world. We need God more than we think we need God. When the Israelites experienced more of Him, they wanted even more. This was shown by the extension of Passover to another week.

Acts 25-26 - Paul was hated by a certain group of people in Jerusalem. They were willing to do or say anything in order to get Paul in trouble. They wanted him dead, and had conspired to make it happen.

Acts 25-26 shows the futility of their plans, and the sovereignty of God. Paul, the prisoner, had an opportunity to share his faith with two of the region's most powerful men, Festus, and King Agrippa. He was also able to share with all of Festus and Agrippa's advisers.

I love the way that Paul tried his best to persuade King Agrippa to become a follower of Jesus. In the end, Agrippa turned Paul down, but it was only because Agrippa wanted to continue to live in his sinful lifestyle, not because Paul hadn't persuaded him that Jesus was the Messiah.

We can give some people the most compelling evidence in the world that Jesus is Messiah, but they might still turn us down when we encourage them to trust Jesus with their life. It's called the willful roadblock, and is the roadblock that people who don't want to give up their lifestyle deal with. It was well known, at the time, that King Agrippa was in an incestuous relationship with his wife's sister, and didn't want to give that up. Paul didn't see Agrippa beyond the point of God's redemption.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 25, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 56, Genesis 50:15-26, 2 Chronicles 29, Acts 23:12‐24:27

Psalm 56 -
David's perspective on what man can do and what God can do is a good one. He wrote Psalm 56 when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Things didn't look good for David. But, he trusted in the Lord.

He wrote the following in verses 10-11, "10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

If God is for us, who can be against us? That is the passion with which David wrote, and what he truly believed in his heart. His faith was firmly in God's camp.

Genesis 50:15-26 - The perspective that Joseph gained over his years of trusting God was priceless. This is a man, whose brothers had sold him into slavery, and who responded in nothing but love.

Joseph's eternal perspective is shown in Genesis 50:20, "20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."

I'm grateful for the strong faith of Joseph, and the forgiveness and faith that he showed as he lived his life.

2 Chronicles 29 - How refreshing it must have been to the people of Judah to experience a righteous king after so many kings who chased after false gods. 2 Chronicles 29 is the first chapter in which the reign of Hezekiah is described. The Chronicler pays more attention to Hezekiah's reign than any other king. He was a godly king who re-instituted worship at the temple. He honored the priesthood, and honored the worship of Jehovah.

Acts 23:12-24:27 - Once again we see Paul using whatever opportunity that God brings his way to honor the Lord. When a plot to kill Paul is discovered, he is brought before Felix to be tried. When before Felix, Paul spoke passionately from his heart about the things of God. He would not go down without others hearing about Jesus. What an awesome example!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 24, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 55, Genesis 50:1‐14, 2 Chronicles 28, Acts 21:17 ‐23:11

Psalm 55 -
Have you ever been betrayed by a best friend or family member? David's psalm of lament in Psalm 55 talks about such incredible pain. Many of David's lamenting psalms deal with God rescuing him from his enemies. This is the first instance I recall reading of David lamenting the betrayal of an old friend.

His solution remains trusting in God. He takes the pain that he is feeling and leaves it in God's lap. That is a good place to go when we are hurt by human beings. God will never betray us. He may allow us to experience pain, but when He does, it is for our good and growth.

Genesis 50:1-14 - I have been with many families as they have walked through the death of a loved one. Joseph honored his father, Jacob, upon Jacob's death. He followed through on the promise that he made to his father, to have him buried in the land of Canaan.

Joseph did a good thing. He honored his father's wishes. He asked Pharaoh for permission to leave and go back to Canaan to bury his father, and his request was granted. Joseph was a man of his word. Over and over again we see that when Joseph spoke, when he made a promise, he could be trusted. Godly leaders are men and women who keep their word.

2 Chronicles 28 - Much has been written about the wickedness of King Ahab in Israel. A reading of 2 Chronicles 28 makes me feel that King Ahaz may have been Judah's most wicked king. His worship of Baal and his worship of the gods of Judah's enemies are a clear picture of a king whoring after other gods. He led Judah to such a terrible place that God allowed Judah's enemies to kill 120,000 men in one day, and take another 200,000 women and children captives.

May we not chase after the gods of this world. I don't want to be accused of idolatry. I wonder what things I have placed ahead of God in my life.

Acts 21:17-23:11 - Paul must have had some suspicion that his trip to Jerusalem could be perilous for him. He was received warmly by James, the leader of the Jerusalem church and the half-brother of Jesus. The Jerusalem church was thrilled to hear what God was doing amongst the Gentiles.

After seven days in Jerusalem, false charges were brought up against Paul. The charges indicated that Paul was telling everyone, everywhere bad things about the people of Jerusalem, the law, and the temple. Truth be told, Paul was arrested because he was telling everyone, everywhere about Jesus, the Messiah.

It's interesting to see how Paul responds to his plight. He uses it as a platform to proclaim Jesus to even more people,many of whom he would have no access to if it weren't for the arrest.

Paul saw every opportunity to share Christ, whether in chains or free, as a blessing from Christ. May we have the same resolve to share Christ with others!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 23, 2010

Psalm 54, Genesis 49, 2 Chronicles 27, Acts 20:17‐21:16

Psalm 54 -
I can't imagine the pressure that David must have felt as he hid in fear of death by the hand of King Saul. Psalm 54 was a psalm that was written during this period of time in David's life. Despite the fear, David knew that his help came from the LORD. He faithfully depended upon God to carry him when the days were darkest. In our darkest of days, when God is all we have, we must recognize that God is all we need.

Genesis 49 - In this historic chapter, Jacob blesses his sons and then dies. It is in this chapter that the future of the twelve tribes of Israel are foretold. Pay particular attention to what is said about the tribe of Judah, for this is the tribe that Messiah will come from.

2 Chronicles 27 - Jotham reigned over Jerusalem for sixteen years, and 2 Chronicles 27 records that he became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God. Once again we see how God works on behalf of His people when they remain faithful to him.

Acts 20:17‐21:16 - I love the way in which Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders in this passage. He tells them the hard truth that the church needs to hear. He also warns them of the difficulties that lay ahead for them as a church. Paul was a true shepherd to the flock. He told them the truth in love, and protected them from false teachers that might come their way. He is a great example of how those in spiritual leadership should serve those under our care.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 22, 2010

Psalm 53, Genesis 47:27‐48:22, 2 Chronicles 26, Acts 19:23‐20:16

Psalm 53 -
God is constantly scanning the world to see if there are any who understand and seek after God. David uses this psalm to underscore the fact that there is no one like our God. There is no one who does good. It is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God. May we not be foolish. Seek after God with all your heart!'

Genesis 47:27-48:22 - Jacob was old. At 147 years old, his days on this earth would soon be over. This passage records the tender conversation that took place between Jacob and his favorite son, Joseph. It also records the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh. As had been the case with Jacob and Esau, Ephraim is blessed as the firstborn even though Manasseh was the older child. This was not a mistake. Jacob knew what he was doing. God would indeed bless the Ephraimites.

2 Chronicles 26 - The old adage, "Pride goes before the fall," is evident in the story of Uzziah. His early reign was marked with great achievement. But, Uzziah became pride. He began to think that the rules didn't apply to him. So, he did what was not allowed in the temple of God. He burned incense. This was a job that was reserved for the priest, not the king. When confronted, in his arrogance, Uzziah insisted that he be allowed to burn incense. He then acquired leprosy, and lived with it the rest of his life. He would eventually die, isolated, because of his pride.

Acts 19:23‐20:16 - Once again the Apostle Paul faced opposition to his ministry. It's something that those who serve the Lord should expect. In this case, the opposition that Paul felt caused him to leave Ephesus. I believe this is because God had plans for Paul that were to happen elsewhere.

When Paul left Ephesus he encouraged believers in other regions, even raising one man from the dead. That would have never happened if Paul had still been in Ephesus.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 21, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 52, Genesis 47:13‐26, 2 Chronicles 25, Acts 18:23‐19:22

Psalm 52 -
As you read through the Psalms, the theme of trust runs through and through. Psalm 52 is one of those psalms that reflects David's trust of the Lord. David is once again being pursued by evil men, but instead of spending his time in worry and fear, David turns the table on his enemy.

In essence David is saying, "Listen, Bub! I'm not the one who needs to be afraid. You are coming against the Lord's anointed, and the Lord. Keep messing with God, and you will be the one who pays the price."

God doesn't promise us that Christians won't face difficult times. He doesn't even guarantee victory over our enemies. David felt assured that God would work on his behalf. If God chose not to, it would be okay, because David would have no regrets for how he was living his life.

Bottom line is this: live for God, not for men. Fear God, not men. Follow Him, no matter where He leads, and you will have no regret.

Genesis 47:13-26 - Joseph was a shrewd negotiator, and a wise leader. While the people of Egypt and Canaan may have grown to regret their decision to give themselves and their land as servants to Pharaoh, their decision saved their lives.

Joseph did not take all of the land. He took 20% and left 80% for the people. This allowed the ruling class to have enough food to provide for the nation in the event of the famine. The people worked hard, and their lives were spared.

2 Chronicles 25 - If there is a key verse in 2 Chronicles 25, it has to be verse two, "And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart."

The verse was speaking of Amaziah, the king of Judah. This king was 25 years old when he became king, and reigned in Jerusalem for 29 years. His worship of god was halfhearted, for he also worshipped false gods in the form of idols.

At first, Amaziah's devotion to God was not complete, because he refused to destroy the idols of his predecessors. It wasn't like he actually worshipped idols. But, given enough time, halfhearted worship becomes false worship.

Eventually, Amaziah worshiped idols captured from an enemy army, and then he hardened his heart, refusing to listen to godly counsel from a prophet. This led to Amaziah's downfall. The king felt the sting of God's judgment in the form of his death. May we not be hardhearted people.

Acts 18:23-19:22 - Apollos was a man who loved the Lord, and spoke boldly of Christ in Ephesus. It was clear to the church leaders that Apollos had the hand of God upon him as he spoke. But, he didn't understand everything about God. He had a basic misunderstanding about what baptism was all about.

Priscilla and Aquila did something beautiful for Apollos. They took him aside and "explained the way of God more accurately" to him. What a beautiful picture of the growth of a servant of God. He didn't allow his pride to get in the way of his learning. He took their words and became a better communicator. Apollos is an example of a person who didn't have it all together, but someone who was used in a mighty way by God.

We shouldn't be afraid of allowing God to shape us through other people. We also shouldn't think we have to have it all together for God to use us. He used Apollos and He can use you!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 20, 2010

Psalm 51, Genesis 46:1‐47:12, 2 Chronicles 24, Acts 18:1‐22

Psalm 51 -
It had been eighteen long months of struggling for King David. The wayward king, the man after God's own heart, the great writer, the warrior, had let his relationship with God go. He had sinned with Bathsheba. He had arranged for Uriah's death. And, King David was miserable.

It was the Prophet Nathan, whom God sent to confront the king. God was no longer content to let David live in his misery. He had plans for David. And, David was ready to repent.

Psalm 51 is David's song of repentance. I love verses 10-12: 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and o renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

David knew that part of repenting was making room for God to create a right spirit within him. He also pleaded with God to not take away the Holy Spirit from him. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon very few people, for very specific purposes, for a certain amount of time. David knew that the Holy Spirit had been with his predecessor, Saul. Saul's continual sin resulted in the Spirit being taken from him. David prayed that God would have mercy on him.

He also prayed for God to restore the joy of his salvation. Some of you may need to pray the same thing. You may be struggling in your relationship with Jesus today. If so, ask Him to do His restoring work. He loves to work in you!

Genesis 46:1-47:12 - It was moving day for the family of Jacob. God told Jacob to go to Egypt and join his son Joseph. The reunion of Joesph and Jacob must have been so amazing. Jacob was thrilled to see his son.

God took care of Jacob and his family. And, Jacob, the descendant of Abraham, has an audience before the mighty Pharaoh. He uses this time to bless Pharaoh. God would one day bless all people's of the earth through the Abrahamic line.

2 Chronicles 24 - Imagine what it would be like to come to the throne at seven years old. Joash was such a king. And, for many years, Joash was a godly king.

Why? Because he had a godly mentor. Jehoiada, the priest, was as godly a man as had lived in Israel. He helped shape Joash's early reign. But, when Jehoiada died, Joash was influenced by ungodly advisers, and turned from God.

The people we hang out with make a huge difference in our lives. Joash's life is a prime example of this. His life was influenced for good when he was surrounded by godly counsel and for terrible wickedness when surrounded by the wrong men.

Acts 18:1-22 - Paul loved the people of Corinth. He spent 1 1/2 years with them, planting a church among a people who lived in a wicked town. In order to support himself, Paul worked a second job. He was a tentmaker, and was allowed to practice his craft with Aquila and his wife Priscilla.

Aquila and Priscilla were vital partners in Paul's ministry. He could not have stayed amongst the people of Corinth without the help of these two. I'm so grateful for the Aquila and Priscilla people in my life that make it possible for me to share the truth of the Gospel.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 19, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 50, Genesis 45, 2 Chronicles 23, Acts 17:16‐34

Psalm 50 -
This psalm paints a powerful picture of our God. I love the imagery from beginning to end of our God, Who has every right to summon all the peoples of the earth to witness His power. Verse after verse speaks of God's power and His absolute God nature. Take some time to reflect upon our Mighty God today.

Genesis 45 - For the past few days we have been reading about Joseph's progression in trusting God. He went from favored son to slave to prisoner to ruler. God had good plans for Joseph when He allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery. God has good plans for us too. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. The rewards may take time to show up, but they will come. I love the tenderness with which Joseph treats his brothers. He is careful to let them know that it wasn't them that sent him into slavery, but God, so that good would be accomplished.

One final note. I was struck by Joseph's words "He has made me a father to Pharaoh." I wonder who God might put in your way that you might be a father or mother to.

2 Chronicles 23 - Jehoiada was a godly priest who had taken care of Joash, the rightful heir to the throne for several years. I love that when the time came for Jehoiada to make his move, he did it. He didn't hesitate. With the Lord's power, he orchestrated a coup to put the rightful heir to the throne where he belonged. Upon taking the throne, Joash allowed Jehoiada to cleanse the land of the false god Baal. God was pleased by the purification of the children of Israel.

Acts 17:16-34 - When the Apostle Paul arrived in Athens, he was saddened by the great number of idols and false gods that were worshipped. Some may have seen the city of Athens as a lost cause. Paul saw opportunity. When Paul saw an idol to "an unknown god," Paul told the people of Athens about the one true God. He was ready to speak when given the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. We too need to be ready to share the Good News of Jesus Christ at every opportunity we have. The Gospel is the best news that the world will ever hear. Paul studied the culture around him to be able to present the Gospel in a culturally acceptable way. We should always study culture so that we might find inroads to sharing the Gospel.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 18, 2010

Psalm 49, Genesis 44, 2 Chronicles 22, Acts 15:36‐17:15

Psalm 49 -
Psalm 49 reads more like a Proverb, for it is full of practical wisdom. Often times those who live righteous lives can get distracted by the world around them. It's easy to ask questions like, "Why do those who completely ignore God seem to get ahead in life." The writers remind us that every one of us will eventually die. To live a life that ignores God is not only ignorant, it is also eternally devastating.

The psalm ends with these words: 20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

God, give us understanding. Help us to be a people who know and understand You, and live for Your glory and renown.

Genesis 44 - The drama in Joseph's story intensifies in this chapter as he tests his brothers to see if they have truly changed. After Benjamin is falsely accused of stealing, Judah speaks up for all of the brothers, and offers to take the place of Benjamin as Joseph's slave.

There would be One who would come from the line of Judah many generations later, who would give His life as a ransom for you and for me. Jesus Christ came into the world from the family line of Judah.

2 Chronicles 22 - Sad days continue for the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel. Judah's kings had been mostly righteous, and Israel's kings had all been wicked. The marriage of Ahab's daughter to Jehoram, had brought Baal worship to Judah. Now both Judah and Israel were following false gods. After Jehoram's death, Ahaziah became king, but he only lasted a year; following in the ways of his father, and even allying with the king of Israel to make war. That foolish decision would cost him his life.

God preserves His covenant to David by sparing the life of Joash, hiding him for six years as Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and wife of Jehoram ruled in her son's place. How sad that Ahab and Jezebel's daughter was now the ruler of Judah!

Acts 15:36-17:15 - The passage begins with the dispute between Paul and Barnabas that God used to grow His church. Paul and Barnabas both had a heart for discipleship. They wanted to strengthen the believers that they had visited on their first missionary journey. Barnabas, the encourager who saw the good in others when other people could not (including Paul, after his conversion) wanted to bring John Mark along. Paul wanted nothing to do with it because John Mark had abandoned them on the first missionary journey. So, they divided and went their separate ways.

Silas joined Paul and Mark joined Barnabas, and they all made disciples.

Paul would meet Timothy, early in this journey. Timothy would become like a son to him. By the end of his life, Paul would want both Timothy and John by his side. He would eventually reconcile.

Sometimes our disputes with others are a way for God to work so that He can accomplish even greater works in our lives. It's okay to disagree with others. It's okay choose to part ways. But, it's never okay to stop loving and stop hoping in someone else.

I'm blown away as I see the fruit of Paul and Silas' ministry. These men praised God in all circumstances. When in jail, they sang praises and trusted God. They saw jail as an opportunity to share Christ with their captors. When God provided for escape, they shared Christ.

One last thought from these passages. The Berean church was made up of some extraordinary followers of Jesus. Acts 17:11 tells us that they studied the Scriptures to make sure that what Paul and Silas told them was true: "11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

All of us should do the same thing. We need to be in the Word, studying it to make sure that what we hear from pastors and teachers is true.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 17, 2010

Psalm 48, Genesis 43, 2 Chronicles 21, Acts 15:1‐35

Psalm 48 -
The children of Israel worshipped God in the city of Jerusalem. In this psalm, we read about our great Lord, who has shown Himself time and time again to be worthy of praise.

Most likely, enemy armies had come into Jerusalem to try to control of the city. The enemy armies clearly lost that battle. God had protected Israel. The Sons of Korah wrote this song as a celebration of the fact that God had protected His people. How beautiful to be the city where God dwells.

Genesis 43 - There is something so beautiful about this part of Joseph's story. Years and years of bitterness and pain are wiped away when Joseph's eyes catch those of Benjamin. Benjamin was Joseph's only true full brother, as they shared the same mother. Maybe Joseph saw a bit of his mother's eyes in Benjamin. Either way, he was so overcome with emotion that he needed time to compose himself. Upon composing himself, he dines alone, for, according to verse 32, it was an abomination for an Egyptian to dine with a Hebrew. This means that Joseph had spent years dining alone. His position gave him Egyptian servants who prepared food for him, but no one to dine with.

The brothers dined together and sat in astonishment that they were being so blessed. They also took notice of the extraordinary portion size on Benjamin's plate.

The secret will soon be revealed. But for now, the brothers must wonder, "Why? Why are we being treated so well? What have we done to deserve such favor in God's eyes?"

When you think about it, everyone of us is like Joseph's brothers. We may never consider selling a brother into slavery, but we have all fallen short of God's glorious plan for our lives. We have all sinned. And, God allows us to experience blessings in our lives that we don't deserve. Why? Because, He loves us. He truly does. We may fall short, but God knew we would and He sent a Redeemer; Jesus Christ, our Lord. May we not throw away the gift of Jesus! We need God's grace. Reach for it today!

2 Chronicles 21 - The sad tale of Jehoram is told in 2 Chronicles 21. The eldest son of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram was nothing like his father. Upon taking over the throne, Jehoram killed all of his brothers! He must not have wanted a threat to his throne.

Not only that, but he practiced the things that the kings of Israel had practiced. in fact, verse six tells us that he lived like Ahab, the most wicked king Israel had ever known. He married Ahab's daughter, and went to war against Edom, which would be akin to going to war with a state in the United States, if you were President of the USA. Edom never came back under the rule of Judah.

Verse eleven tells us that Jehoram led the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom and made Judah go astray! What a terrible legacy! He brought idolatry to Judah.

Then something amazing happens! Elijah (who in my opinion was Israel's greatest prophet, a courageous man who stood against Ahab and Jezebel) wrote a letter to Jehoram telling of what God was going to do to him.

I just preached an entire series on the life of Elijah and completely missed this incident from Elijah's life. Elijah prophesied in Israel, not in Judah. This time, via letter, he prophesies in Judah. And, he tells the king about an awful sickness that the king will receive. The sickness will kill him, but it will be a painful death.

God was furious with Jehoram! But, God was faithful to His covenant with David.

Jehoram dies, and verse 20 says, "and he departed with no one's regret."

What a terrible epithet! May we never walk away from God like Jehoram. Our God is sometimes slow to act, but He does act. Jehoram only reigned in Jerusalem for eight years and then he died.

Acts 15:1-35 - The Jerusalem Council is a great model for us as we think through how church leaders should make decisions. The council had an important decision to make. How "Jewish" should Gentile believers be required to become, once they become followers of Jesus. There were many in the council who wanted Gentile believers to be circumcised to keep the law of Moses.

The apostles and elder debated and then Peter spoke up, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It was decided that the new believers should only have to observe a few requirements. A letter was sent that was a great encouragement to the believers. In it, the leaders wrote, "28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

When the Gentile believers in Antioch received these words they were so blessed. Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Judas not only delivered the message but ministered for quite a while amongst the people. These godly men sent a good word to the people and blessed them by staying on to disciple them. That is good and godly leadership.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 16, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 47, Genesis 42, 2 Chronicles 20, Acts 13‐14

Psalm 47 -
One of the first songs that I remember singing as a child came directly from Psalm 47:1. The song went like this:

"Clap you hands, all ye people, shout unto God with a voice of triumph! Clap your hands, all ye people, shout unto God with a voice of praise! Hosanna! Hosanna! Shout unto God with a voice of triumph. Praise Him. Praise Him. Shout unto God with a voice of praise."

I haven't sung that song in at least twenty years, but I remembered it immediately upon reading the words of Psalm 47. Why? Because I remember the joy with which rooms full of people sang those words. That's what I picture happening as the children of Israel sang this psalm. Joy!

When is the last time you sang with a heart full of passion to the Lord? If it's been awhile, then find some time today to sing to Him. Seriously. Sing. Sing at the top of your lungs. Don't have a good voice? It's okay, God doesn't care. Are you shy? That's okay, find a place where you can be alone, and belt out that favorite worship song of yours. Let the Lord hear your unbridled praise today.

Genesis 42 - There is a moment of recognition in Genesis 42 that I love. It comes in verses 8-9. "And Joseph recognized his brothers, bu they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them."

When I read those words, and when I think of all that God brought Joseph through, I think that this is the moment where Joseph was finally able to begin to reconcile things in his heart with God's plans. Sure, God had allowed him a great position in Egypt, but when we are hurt by those who should love us the most (our family), it can be tough to see the goodness of God in our lives. Here, Joseph begins to recognize that the dream he had so long ago was for this time. God had not forgotten. For the first time in years, Joseph had hope. And, hope is such a powerful thing!

2 Chronicles 20 - Jehoshaphat was a good leader. As king over Judah, he stood in stark contrast to the wicked kings who ruled over Israel. One of the markers of good leadership is a recognition of where our power truly lies. Jehoshaphat was not too proud to recognize that his wisdom and the wisdom of his advisers was not enough. He needed God's wisdom. He led the people of Judah in prayer on so many occasions.

I want to be a leader Jehoshaphat, one who is constantly going to God, the Perfect Servant Leader, for wisdom, direction and strength.

Acts 13-14 - There are many biblical scholars who believe that Simeon who was called Niger, a member at the church of Antioch, is the same Simon of Cyrene who was asked to carry the cross for Jesus. If this is true, how cool that the man became a follower of Jesus, and a leader in the early church!

Paul and Barnabas go off together on a very important mission trip. They would be used by God to start new churches, and make disciples in far off lands.

I'm in the Phoenix airport as I type, preparing for a week of meetings with church planting leaders from across the country. How exciting to be involved in a work much like Barnabas and Saul. It wasn't until the church had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on Paul and Barnabas that they were sent off. May we take God's work as serious! The Lord has important work to do all over the world. In the past three weeks, I've asked three of my friends to consider becoming church planters. One has said, "No, church planting isn't for him," but two are open and will be going through a church planting assessment in a few weeks. It's been so cool to watch their reactions go from disbelief that God could call them to such an important work, to serious consideration.

Have you ever considered serving God in vocational ministry? What about on a short-term mission trip? What about serving him as a volunteer in a regular ministry? If not, pray about it. You might be surprised at what God does with you.

Notice in Acts 13-14 that it was normal for Paul and Barnabas to face opposition as they served the Lord. Opposition was usually followed by a spiritual breakthrough and discipling new believers. It is so great to see God work in such incredible ways in the lives of people! He can do it through you too! Expect opposition, and then expect results. God is more powerful than our adversary.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 15, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 46, Genesis 41:37-57, 2 Chronicles 19:4-11, Acts 12

Psalm 46 –
How much do you trust in God? I’m always blown away when I read this particular Psalm. The Sons of Korah begin by describing God as our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Then they back it up by saying that even if the earth falls apart, they won’t fear. That is faith! I’m not sure what was going on in Israel at the time this psalm was written, but I have to believe that maybe the nation was experiencing some difficulty. It is easy to fear, allow doubts to creep in, and to let worry rule the day when we face difficult times.

The Psalm ends with the voice of God declaring that the nations should be still and see that He is God. As the people sang this psalm, they would have been reminded of the awesome power of God no matter their circumstances. And, they would have been reminded about the importance of giving God the time to work that He chooses to use. Many of our fears come because we want God to work on our timeframe. We need to recognize that sometimes He is calling us to be still. Be still. Wait. See that He is God. He will work in His time, for His glory, and for your ultimate best.

Genesis 41:37-57 – Joseph’s long journey from Israel, to slavery in Egypt, to leadership in Potiphar’s home, to prison, is now beginning to look bright. He has been summoned to the palace to explain to Pharaoh the meaning of the monarch’s dreams. No Egyptian magician could help Pharaoh, but a Hebrew slave, who had been falsely accused and imprisoned for years was now not only standing before Pharaoh, but delivering a message from God. Joseph had been in God’s hands throughout every moment of his life. He was not here by accident. He was God’s man for perilous times.

I love the courage with which Joseph speaks to Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s advisors. The young man has a good plan to help with Egypt’s impending famine. Time would show that Joseph’s understanding of Pharaoh’s dreams was correct, as was his plan for how to deal with the problem of famine. And, God, in His sovereignty, allowed Joseph, the Hebrew slave, the prisoner, the unloved brother, the misfit, to rise to second in command in all of Egypt.

When I look at leaders in the world today I often ask myself, “Why them? Why are they in the position that they are in?” So often, they are people who were humble, waited their turn, and were exalted by God at just the right time. The Bible tells us that it is a good thing to aspire to leadership. Will you be ready when God calls you? He loves to choose unlikely people to accomplish His wonderful plans. Let Him use you!

2 Chronicles 19:4-11 – Jehoshaphat appointed judges in each city of Judah to help bring the people back to the LORD. This was a good thing to do. Each judge was told to “judge not for man, but for the LORD. He will be with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality, or taking bribes.”

These would be good instructions for any godly leader. Our lives are to be lived for an Audience of One – God! He is the one that we should fear. The best leaders that I know are leaders who fear God, not man. We should strive to please Him in all that we do.

Acts 12 – The persecution of the early church continues, with the first of Jesus’ disciples being killed. James, the brother of John, who was one of the three disciples who went everywhere with Jesus is killed in Acts 12 by Herod, the king. Luke, the writer of Acts begins this chapter with the rather understated words, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.”

Persecution was really becoming a problem for the church, but God continued to allow the church to flourish despite the persecution that they faced.

When I read this passage today, I thought about Peter and John. Peter was with James, when he was killed. I’m sure that Peter was marked by this event for the rest of his life. It must have hurt so much to see such a close friend die. John, lost his brother, and best friend here. John lost Jesus and James in such close proximity to each other. And, we know that John would outlive all of the disciples. Every disciple except John would be martyred for their faith. So, the writing was on the wall for these guys.

The power of prayer is also evident in this chapter, as the early church, feeling the effects of persecution, prayed for the release of Peter from jail. If Peter had not been rescued by angels from heaven, it is very likely that he would have martyred within hours. God still had big plans for Peter, and miraculously allowed for him to slip out of what looked like a hopeless situation. I like this story of escape, because God allows Peter to do something absurd; he just walks out. Prison guards are seemingly blinded to the fact that public enemy number one is walking out of the jail!

There is another telling thing that happens in this chapter. The early church is praying for Peter’s release. Upon his release he walks to the home where the early church is meeting. Rhoda, the slave girl answers the door, and sees it’s Peter. She doesn’t let him in! She runs back to tell the prayer meeting that Peter is free and at the door. Do they believe her? No! They tell her that she is “out of her mind” and that “it is his angel.” They had the faith to pray, but didn’t have the faith to believe that God would answer their prayer. Isn’t that how it is with us time and again? We pray, and then are shocked when God answers our prayer! May we be a people who believe that God is not only capable of answering prayer, but that our God takes delight in working through the prayers of His saints! So, pray saint! Pray! And, watch not in amazement, but in expectancy as God works.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 14, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 45, Genesis 41:1‐36, 2 Chronicles 18:1‐19:3, Acts 11:19‐30

Psalm 45 -
I live in the United States of America. Our land is not ruled by a monarch, but by three branches of government. One day, after this world has passed away, I will no longer be ruled by human leaders, but by God. It's not that God doesn't rule me now. He does. In a very real sense, all of us are under God's rule and authority. It's just that some of us submit to that rule, and other's don't. There will come a day when all will bow down at the throne of God. And, that throne is one that will never ever fade away.

When you think about all of the superpowers that have ruled portions of the globe over the years, a kingdom that has no end is a revolutionary thing. Not only is it revolutionary, it is wonderful, because God is the One Who will rule that kingdom. There will be no more sin. There will be no more death. There will be no more sorrow. There will be no end to His kingdom, and I stand in awe of that today.

Genesis 41:1-36 - There are two adjectives that really struck me as I read this passage today. The first is the word whole. "After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile . . ."

Joesph had been waiting for the chief cupbearer to follow through on his promise for two whole years. That is a long time to wait! God still had work for Joseph in that prison cell. And, you can bet that some of that work was chiseling Joseph into who God was calling him to be. The writer really wanted us to understand that it had been a long time that Joseph had to wait.

The second adjective is the word quickly. It describes just how fast Joseph went from the pit to the palace. When God chooses to work, it can seem like a whirlwind! God had spent time forming Joseph into someone that He could use for His divine purposes, and Joseph was quickly restored.

When we are in the pit, we should remember the story of Joseph. He went from the pit to the palace quickly, after waiting for two whole years for a promise to be kept.

2 Chronicles 18:1-19:3 - It's so interesting to read about Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahab, and to read the Chronicles telling of the story. We just read the 2 Kings account of this event in church, but the Chronicler gives an entirely different angle to the story. How sad that Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, would align himself with Ahab, King of Israel. God's wrath would bring Ahab to death and punishment for Jehoshaphat due to this alliance.

Acts 11:19-30 - I love the discipleship process that took place between Barnabas and Saul. Barnabas not only stood up for Saul when no one else would, he disciples him, and the two of them in turn discipled the Christians in the church at Antioch. Antioch was the first place that followers of Jesus were called Christians, which literally means "little Christ." What a great name! May we all be little Christ's, reflecting His glory and power, and holiness in our lives.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 13, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 44, Genesis 40, 2 Chronicles 17, Acts 10:1‐11:18

Psalm 44 -
The desperate cry for help that the Sons of Korah present to the Lord in Psalm 44 is a beautiful reminder of the place that the children of Israel held in God's heart. God had seemingly forgotten the plight of His children. God, of course, had not forgotten; but sometimes when we go through tough periods even those who walk faithfully with God feel his absence.

Mother Theresa wrote about her dark night of the soul. C. H. Spurgeon often wrote of the difficult times that came in his life. C. S. Lewis chronicled the pain that came in his life when his wife passed away. Following God isn't always easy. Sometimes His hand doesn't seem to work the way that we wish it would. But, His plans remain good; and we can trust in Him. In fact, the Sons of Korah show us in Psalm 44 that it is pure folly to trust in anyone else.

Genesis 40 - A key event in Joseph's development happens in Genesis 40. Imprisoned with the chief cupbearer and chief baker of Pharaoh, Joseph interprets the dreams of these men. But, before doing so, Joseph says to the men, "Do not interpretations belong to God."

Joseph lifts up the name of Jehovah in his Egyptian prison. He then, through the power of God, interprets the dreams. It is clear that Joseph has thought much about his circumstances as he sits in the prison, but his trust in the Lord remains firm.

One more thought - leaders are people who have to tell people things that don't want to hear on occasion. Such was the case with Joseph's news to the chief baker. He gave terrible news, but did so with character and leadership that would be needed in the years ahead.

2 Chronicles 17 - We just finished a sermon series on the life of Elijah at Woodbury Community Church. As such, we spent a lot of time talking about King Ahab, the most wicked King the nation of Israel had ever seen. While Ahab was on the throne in Israel, Jehoshaphat was on Judah's throne.

Jehoshaphat's reign is marked by faithful obedience to the Lord. Because of this, God blessed the nation of Judah under Jehoshaphat's reign.

Acts 10:1-11:18 - "The Holy Spirit has come to the Gentiles!" It must have been a sentiment that was heard over and over again in the early church. Jewish people, who had been raised in a tradition where they were God's chosen people; would have been shocked to see God's grace reach out to the Gentiles. Even Peter, one who had heard with his own ears the proclamation of Jesus that the Gospel would go to Gentiles, was shocked when he finally saw it happen.

I am a Gentile. This chapter is where grace finally came to people like me. I rejoice that Christ's grace is still reaching Jew and Gentile alike. I have been so blessed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 12, 2010

Psalm 42‐43, Genesis 39, 2 Chronicles 16, Acts 9:32‐43

Psalm 42-43 -
The Sons of Korah were worship leaders in Israel. I love the way that they begin the second book of the Psalms. With beautiful imagery, the Sons of Korah talk about their passion for the Lord. They craved the Lord as a deer pants for water.

There is raw honesty in this passage, as the worship leaders describe the struggle that their own souls felt towards God. The worship leaders remembered brighter times in their own walk with God, and in the spiritual condition of their nation. They longed for brighter days. They longed for spiritual renewal. We too should long for spiritual renewal. We should long for the Lord with everything we are.

Genesis 39 - I was talking with someone this week about God's GPS. When it came to Joseph's life, the young man must have felt like God's directions just didn't make sense. One day Joseph is being adored by his father, and the next he is being betrayed by his brothers. One day Joseph is being sold into slavery, the next he is put in charge of Potiphar's home. One day he is doing a great job, the next he is being seduced by Potiphar's wife.

Joseph was a godly young man. He rebuffed Potiphar's wife, and paid a huge price. It was imprisonment on false charges for Joseph! Doesn't sound quite like the reward that somebody living a godly life deserves. But, that was his life.

Joseph would be used mightily by God, but God was going to use him in places that Joseph never imagined. Remember that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, faithfulness to God is the answer. Like Joseph, God's plans for us are not quite what we would expect, but they will ultimately be for our best and His glory.

2 Chronicles 16 - Asa had done so many good things for the people of Judah, but as his life ends he turns from God and seeks help from pagan lands. It is a sad way to end his life.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is found in 2 Chronicles 16:9 - 9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

I'm sure that Asa wished that verse would have ended with words like, "And you are a man whose heart is blameless." Unfortunately, it didn't end that way for Asa.

Asa's life is a reminder to us about the importance of finishing well.

Acts 9:32-43 - There is something unfortunate that happens to many of us the more we become familiar with the Bible. Sometimes we lose the awe of the stories like the one in Acts 9:36-43. Tabitha, a woman who was dead, is raised to life through the power of Christ! That's right, a dead woman was made alive again! Only God has the power to do that. The same God who restored the life of Tabitha back to her has the power to work in lives today. Let's never forget that, and never let the awe go away.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 11, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 41, Genesis 38, 2 Chronicles 15, Acts 9:1‐31

Psalm 41 -
This is a song of lament, in which David cries out to the Lord for healing. He is severely ill, and asks the Lord for healing. He also admits his sin, fessing up to the fact that he has fallen short of being the man that God has called him to be. This psalm is one place where we see a biblical precedent for praying for God to heal us.

Genesis 38 - The story of Judah and Tamar is an important one, because it is through this line that Jesus, the Messiah, came into the world. Tamar is one of the women that is mentioned in Jesus' family tree. It's amazing that God chose this family, with all of the heartache, to be the family into which Messiah would be born.

2 Chronicles 15 - This is a good period for the kingdom of Judah. Asa's leadership helped the kingdom of Judah return to worship of Jehovah. Idols were done away with, and those in leadership who propagated the worship of idols were stripped of their authority. God blessed the kingdom of Judah in these days.

Acts 9:1-31 - The conversion of Saul has to be one of my favorite stories of all time. Why? Because it shows the incredible grace of our Lord. There was nothing about Saul that should have attracted God's grace. This was a man who was seeking to destroy the infant church. But, God reached out in grace to save Saul. He chose Saul to be his child. And, what a man He chose! God would use Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, to write more than 2/3 of the New Testament. This is a man who shook his world for Jesus Christ. God saw potential in Saul. He saw not who Saul was, but who Saul would become.

If you have been saved by Jesus Christ, thank Him for the work of grace in your life. Thank Him for choosing you to be His child. Thank Him for not giving you what you deserve, but instead for showering you with grace. He is a loving God!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 10, 2010

Psalm 40, Genesis 37, 2 Chronicles 14, Acts 8

Psalm 40 -
Our God loves to take people from the pit and lift them up. The psalmist knew this. He had experienced the truth of God's work of restoration in his life.

When we are depressed and feeling discouraged, it does us good to remember back to when God has delivered us in the past. That is essentially what David is doing here. He is recognizing the active role that God has taken in his life to bring joy back in situations where he had felt hopeless.

Genesis 37 - Genesis 37 lays the foundation for the story of Joseph's rise to power in Egypt. Who would have thought, just reading Genesis 37, that a boy, hated by his brothers, a bit arrogant, and a dreamer would accomplish the things that he would accomplish over the years to come?

Joseph's story teaches us the sovereignty of Christ. God had a plan for Joseph that involved his being sold into slavery. The young arrogant boy would not have understood that plan. Neither would the brothers. What the brothers meant for evil, God turned to good.

I wonder how many of life's circumstances that we find ourselves complaining about are truly blessings of God in disguise. We need to be a people who trust in the sovereignty of God, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in.

2 Chronicles 14 - Asa is the new king in Israel, and his reign starts out well. 2 Chronicles 14:11 gives us the reason for such a good start, "11 And Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you"

God answered Asa's prayer, and helped Asa's armies defeat the enemies. We will find out in our further reading of Asa's story that his reign does not end well. The king began to trust in his own power and strength instead of the Lord.

We must always be a people who walk in God's power and strength.

Acts 8 - Acts 8 is an important chapter in the history of the early church. It is in this chapter that we see the Gospel proclaimed in Samaria. There were some believers who were shocked to see that the Samaritans had received the Gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit and dispatched Peter and John to see if it was true.

It certainly was true. Jesus had told the disciples to make disciples of all nations, and that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Jerusalem and Judea had already begun to respond to the Gospel. Now Samaria was.

Remember, Samaritans and Jews did not get along. One of the markers of the church of Jesus Christ is that the world will know we are Christians because we love one another. Praise God for this truth! We can rejoice that the Gospel has spread, and continue to pray for the Gospel to reach every culture.

May we as a church always be known for our love for one another.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 9, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 39, Genesis 36, 2 Chronicles 13, Acts 6:8‐7:60

Psalm 39 -
Our lives are truly a mist. We are here for a little while, and then are gone. The psalmist reflects that truth in Psalm 39. This is another prayer of confession. He has sinned, and recognizes that his only hope in this life is the Lord.

I found verses 1-3 to be insightful. Not wanting to speak poorly about the Lord, David guarded his tongue in the presence of the wicked. Perhaps he was being goaded on by wicked people about the situation where he found himself. Perhaps it was something else, but he did not want to sin with his tongue.

In the end, he ends up speaking, worship and prayer to the Lord.

Genesis 36 - Isaac told his son Esau that he would be the father of a great nation. While Jacob was given the birthright and the blessing, Esau was blessed. This chapter details the line of Esau. His family would include many chiefs and kings. A note in my study Bible says that these kings probably ruled different cities. Even though they are listed in succession, they many probably ruled dynasties at the same time.

2 Chronicles 13 - The beginning of the reign of Abijah is chronicled in this chapter. Like his father, Rehoboam, Abijah was not wholly true to the Lord. He allowed for idolatrous worship. But, this chapter is clear to point out that the priests who were in the temple at Jerusalem were faithful to God. The chapter is a good reminder that we must be faithful to the Lord even when our leaders are not. The priests represented the remnant that was faithful to God in those days.

Acts 6:8‐7:60 - The story of the first Christian martyr, Stephen is an interesting one.

Stephen was being used greatly by God, as demonstrated in Acts 6:8. I believe that all of hell took notice at how God was using Stephen, and that Satan wanted to scare the believers by taking Stephen's life. Seized and arrested, Stephen does not go quietly. Instead, he preaches one of the most insightful sermons ever. He paints a panoramic picture of the history of the nation of Israel's relationship with Jehovah, ending with charges that the people had grown stiff-necked and crucified the Messiah.

When Stephen is stoned to death, he echoes the words of Christ from the cross; showing that he loved those who persecuted him.

Stephen's death did not dissuade the growth of the church. Satan's plan to persecute the church may have resulted in great difficulty for the believers, but it had the opposite effect when it came to church growth. The church flourished.

If you look around the world today, the church flourishes in areas where persecution exists. Our American church has been shrinking both in size and impact. Maybe some of that is because it is too easy to be a "Christian" in America today. I wonder how many of us would continue to stand for Christ if the heat were turned up.

The Bible tells us in multiple places that we will face persecution if we walk with Christ. May we pass the test and stand up for Him no matter the situation!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 8, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 38, Genesis 35, 2 Chronicles 12, Acts 4:32‐6:7

Psalm 38 -
Have you ever sinned and felt the impact of the sin so heavily in your heart that you cried out to God in your anguish? That is what was happening in Psalm 38. David had sinned in a significant way, and he was feeling the consequences of that sin. This is a psalm of confession. David asks God to forgive him. He acknowledges the terrible state that he is in, and recognizes that God alone is his hope.

When we sin, we need to confess it to God and recognize that our hope is in the Lord.

Genesis 35 - In this important chapter, we see the relationship between God and Jacob strengthened. Jacob commands his family to put away their false gods and worship only Jehovah. In verse three Jacob comes to recognize that it is God who had answered him in his day of distress and been with him wherever he had gone.

Isn't that the way so many of us work? God has been there all along, but we have to learn the hard way. I'm glad we have a God who pursues us even when we run the other way.

The chapter ends with the death of Rachel and Isaac.

2 Chronicles 12 - The up and down relationship that Rehoboam had with the Lord is demonstrated again in this chapter. As the chapter begins, Rehoboam abandons the law of God and so does Israel. It is amazing the power that a leader has over people's actions. The children of Israel should not have abandoned God, just because their king did. But, they did. And, God's wrath came upon Israel.

The beautiful temple that Solomon built was looted, and all of the treasures stolen. The shields of gold were replaced with shields of bronze.

Isn't that how it can be when we turn our backs on God? We substitute the best for a cheap imitation, and it can't compare. No one compares with our God. There is no other who offers redemption, grace, and the power to transform lives such as Christ.

Acts 4:32-6:7 - These were exciting days for the early church. The believers understood what it meant to live in community with each other. I love the way that they sought to meet each other's needs. Can you imagine what a church that didn't have a needy person among them might look like? This church cared about making sure that no one went without.

The story of Ananias and Sapphira shows how serious God was that the early church understand the holiness of God, and the importance of His bride. The deceit of these two came because they wanted to look good to others around them, even if it meant doing so in a dishonest way.

I love the passion with which the apostles preached the Gospel, even after an arrest. Nothing was going to stop them from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

I've never been arrested for sharing my faith, and yet I don't do it nearly enough. We, who have been given the freedom of living in the United States, should look for every opportunity possible to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have the greatest message ever. The early church was known for what they were for, not what they were against. Let's start being known for Jesus again! Let's share the whole truth about who Christ Jesus is! He is the hope for this world.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 7, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 37, Genesis 34, 2 Chronicles 11, Acts 3:1‐4:31

Psalm 37 -
Psalm 37 is a song that speaks of the faithfulness of God towards his children.

There are few verses that spoke powerfully to me. The first is verse four, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

I wonder if we truly delight ourselves in the LORD. Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking about the irreducible core of the Christian life an awful lot. That irreducible core is to love God, love others, and make disciples as we go. We won't get the rest of the Christian life right if we don't first delight ourselves in God. Is God our all consuming passion, or a cosmic genie in the sky?

I was also blessed by verses 23-26, which say: "23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,when he delights in his way;24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.26 He is ever lending generously,and his children become a blessing."

The Lord has taken care of my family in more ways that I can count. These verses resonate with me. They reflect the God that I know. I praise Him for His faithfulness today!

Genesis 34 - Here we read a sad chapter from Israel's history. Dinah, the daughter of Jacob had been raped by a man named Shechem. When her brothers found out this news, they were determined to take things into their own hands. They wanted vengeance on the man who did such things to their sister and to his entire family.

In the end, Simeon and Levi kill all of Shechem's male relatives. They take the plunder, (wives, children, land, etc. for themselves).

Jacob is not pleased by this impulsive revenge; worried that others will now take vengeance on his own family.

2 Chronicles 11 - 2 Chronicles 11 tells the story of Rehoboam's reign over the kingdom of Judah. The man who started his reign poorly seemed to redeem himself in the end. Remember yesterday's reading says that he surrounded himself with peers for advisers, and ignored the advice of the elders who had reigned with his father, Solomon. That got him into deep trouble, and divided the kingdom of Israel into two the nation of Judah and the nation of Israel.

I'm glad that we can change our minds when we have made poor choices. How good to read of Rehoboam's revival by the end of 2 Chronicles 11.

Acts 3:1-4:31 - There is something so amazing about seeing a person wholeheartedly following Jesus Christ. Peter and John were men like that. In this passage of Scipture we see Peter and John heal a man who had been lame from birth with just these words, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!"

I guarantee you that the lame man was more excited about walking than he would have been about any amount of money that Peter and John could have offered him.

By the end of the day, Peter and John were arrested. Their crime? Proclaiming the powerful name of Jesus.

That did not deter Peter and John. They used their new platform to continue to be a witness for Christ.

The people took notice of the boldness of Peter and John. Look at verse 13, "13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."

May the same be said of us! Have you been with Jesus? If so, your life will reflect it. Keep working through the Challenge and let Christ shape you!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 6, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 36, Genesis 33, 2 Chronicles 10, Acts 2

Psalm 36 -
King David wrote some pretty scary words in Psalm 36:1-4, the scariest of which are, "there is no fear of God before his eyes."

He was speaking about the wicked. To live one's life with no fear of the Lord is a certain path to destruction. It may not happen in this life, but it surely will in the hereafter.

Remember, in Psalm 14:1, David told us that it was the fool who says in his heart that there is no God. The wicked person has not only said such thing in his heart, but has acted upon that belief with callous disregard for the Lord.

May you live your life with a constant awareness and holy reverence for the Lord.

Genesis 33 - What a beautiful story of redemption! Esau had every reason to hold bitterness towards his brother, Jacob. But, God had blessed Esau. When Esau saw Jacob, he chose to run towards him with unabashed love. A note in my Bible described this run as the run of the father in Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son.

It's interesting that Jacob compares seeing Esau's face with the face of God, for he had just wrestled God the night before.

Both God and Esau showed Jacob unmerited favor.

There are people in almost every person's life that need to be shown unmerited favor. Esau had no human reason to show such love to his brother. His love helped change Jacob. Who can you show love like this to? Who can you forgive? Who can you reconcile with? Maybe God will use you to change them for good.

2 Chronicles 10 - Rehoboam was the grandson of King David, the son of King Solomon, and a very stupid leader. It was under his leadership that the nation of Israel was divided. His stubborn refusal to listen to the wise counsel of his father's advisers, in favor of listening to his younger peers, led to incredible rebellion in the nation.

As a pastor, I want to always keep verse 8 in front of me, as a reminder about what happens when we don't respect the heritage of a church, a nation, a family, etc.

8 But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.

Acts 2 - Acts 2 is the chapter of the Bible where everything changed! After Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles gathered in the upper room, praying and waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I love the way Acts 2 describes the coming of the Holy Spirit. There could be no doubt that this was the Spirit that Jesus promised. It would have been amazing to be in that upper room, but what happened next was even more incredible.

Peter, the impulsive, Jesus-denying, foot-in-mouth, act before you think, incredible leader of a man; spoke to thousands about the God who had so marvelously restored and forgiven him. And everyone in the crowd heard Peter's sermon in his own language. What a sermon! Three thousand people came to faith in Christ, and the early church started!

The description of the early church in Acts 2:42-47 shows a group of people who understood the irreducible core of the Christian life - love God, love others and make disciples as you go.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 5, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 35, Genesis 32, 2 Chronicles 9, Acts 1

Psalm 35 -
If ever there were a prayer that showed that it is okay to pray for your own needs, this is it. David is asking the Lord to work on his behalf because there are people who are actively seeking to harm him.

As you read this prayer, you can't help but be struck at the desperation in David's words. He also seems to have full confidence that God will not only deliver him, but that his heart will praise God when he is delivered.

Genesis 32 - This is a fascinating chapter of Scripture. First, Jacob prepares to be reunited with his brother, Esau. Jacob is scared to death about this meeting with Esau. And, why wouldn't he be? He had betrayed Esau. It's interesting to see Jacob's bargaining with God continue in this passage. He is pleading with God for Esau to show mercy on him. Jacob even instructs his servants to tell Esau that "your servant" Jacob is coming to meet him. I believe that Jacob is convinced that he will truly become Esau's servant.

The second half of the chapter deals with Jacob's wrestling with God. It's interesting that God would choose to deal with Jacob in this way. I don't have much to write about the wrestling match, but I do find it interesting that at the conclusion, when God blesses Jacob, that He tells him that his name shall be Israel. This is the first mention of Israel in the Bible.

2 Chronicles 9 - The Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon was a spectacle to behold. She was amazed at both the wisdom and the wealth of Solomon. Her visit shows that the rulers of the world had taken notice of Solomon's wealth. She even infers that Solomon's wealth was the talk of her kingdom, but the talk didn't do it justice.

Then she does something spectacular. She says, "Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God! "

She praised God for Solomon's blessings. She also showered Solomon with blessings.

May we recognize that God has blessed our land. He has given us more than we deserve. We should be praising Him every day for the blessings that He has given to us.

The end of 2 Chronicles 9 records the wealth of Solomon increasing, and then his death. There is much more information about Solomon's reign in 1 Kings.

Acts 1 - The book of Acts was written by the Apostle Luke. We finished Luke's Gospel yesterday, and now we get to dive into his account of the early church.

Luke explains to Theophilus that his first letter was all about Jesus, and that this is a continuation of the Jesus story. Even though Jesus had ascended into heaven, He was still spiritually present on earth, and He continued to teach through His disciples and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:8 is one telling of the Great Commission. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Jesus gave His disciples a model for ministry. They were to share Christ in their hometown (Jerusalem), in their region(Judea), with their neighboring region(Samaria - even though the Samaritans were enemies of the Jews), and to the ends of the earth.

We are to do the same thing. God has called us to reach people like us and people that are not at all like us with the Gospel. How active are we in seeking to share Christ with the world around us? It is Christ's desire for us, and should be our consuming passion.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for Feburary 4, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 34, Genesis 31, 2 Chronicles 8, Luke 24

Psalm 34 -
David has experienced that God is good over and over again in his life when he writes Psalm 34. This passage is written after God had once again delivered David from great trouble.

David encourages the children of Israel to worship and magnify the Lord together with him. And then he says something marvelous in verse 8. "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!"

Those who have experienced the grace and love of God know that these words are good. I talk to so many people who have rejected Christ for one reason or another. I can't help but think if they would taste and see, they would experience that Christ is everything that they ever needed in life. He fills the longings of our heart better than anything this side of heaven.

So, taste and see that the LORD is good. Let us exalt his name together, forever!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 3, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 33, Genesis 29:31‐30:43, 2 Chronicles 7, Luke 23:26‐56

Psalm 33 -
Are you getting the idea that David liked to talk about the love of the Lord? David ends Psalm 33 with these words: "Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you."

If David knew anything about God, it is that his God knew how to show love to people who sometimes didn't deserve it. David had failed God over and over again, and yet God was still so good to him. He marveled at the steadfast love of his powerful God.

What is it about God's love that strikes you today?

Genesis 29:31-30:43 - You can speculate, just from reading this passage, that there will be trouble ahead for Jacob's family. The rivalry that is brewing between his wives and the continued deceitful attitudes about so many things (children, flocks, etc.) reveal a family that is not yet trusting in Jehovah.

2 Chronicles 7 - What a chapter! How can one read the words of 2 Chronicles 7 and not be in awe of our God?

As soon as Solomon had finished his prayer of the dedication of the temple, fire came down from heaven and consumed all the burn offering and sacrifices and the glory of God filled the temple.

What a sight this must have been! I can hardly imagine seeing Solomon then sacrifice 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep.

But, even bigger than the fire that consumed the offering was the fact that God spoke to the people.

2 Chronicles 7:14 has long been one of my favorite Bible verses. Why? Because it details the plan for national repentance and blessing. God didn't call heathens to repent in order for the land of Israel to be healed. He called for His chosen people to repent. If we want to see healing in America, or any other country, it is going to take God's people humbling ourselves, praying turning from our wicked ways, and seeking God's face, in order for our land to be healed.

The same powerful God that showed up in 2 Chronicles 7, wants to show up in your life today. Humble yourself. Pray, Turn from your wicked ways, and seek God's face.

Luke 23:26-56 - As I read this passage tonight, I thought about the people mentioned in the crucifixion account.

First, there is Simon of Cyrene. Simon was from Africa. Most likely a black man, Simon stood out in the Jewish crowds. He was picked out to carry the cross for Jesus, and I wonder how he felt.

Then there are the "Daughters of Jerusalem," whom Jesus picked out and told not to weep for Him, but for themselves and their children.

Then there were the criminals. One turned to Christ, the other mocked Him.

Then the soldiers, men who mocked Christ and gambled for his clothing.

Then there were those who were gathered in the temple, when the curtain was ripped in two. They aren't mentioned by name, but there were some who were there.

Finally, I read of Joseph of Arimathea and some women who had come from Galilee.

All of these people's stories were intertwined with Christ's story. I'm sure many were changed by the crucifixion, and then the resurrection.

I praise God that he died for people like the soldiers and the criminal. I praise God that he died for you and for me. I stand in awe of His great sacrifice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 2, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 32, Genesis 29:1‐30, 2 Chronicles 6, Luke 22:47‐23:25

Psalm 32 -
Psalm 32 is a very important passage. It records the joy that David felt after being forgiven. Most scholars believe that verses 3-4 speak of the time that David shut himself off to the Lord after his sin with Bathsheba. For almost two years, David did not speak with God. After being confronted by the Prophet Nathan, David repented and God forgave him.

Genesis 29:1-30 - Laban was as much a deceiver as his sister Rebekah. I wonder if he favored Leah over Rachel, or if he was just a father who didn't think that Leah would ever find a husband because of her appearance. Either way, Jacob shows that he loves Rachel so much that he was willing to wait another week to marry her and then work another seven years for her hand in marriage.

2 Chronicles 6 - Solomon's prayer for the dedication of the temple tells much of the history between the Children of Israel and God. His prayer would be a good primer for the people of Israel on what God had promised and how God had moved in Israel's past.

Luke 22:47‐23:25 - It is difficult to read the words of Luke 22:47-23:25. As we do, we read about the betrayal, abuse, mock trials, and denial of our Savior. All of this is prior to Jesus actually going to the cross.

Jesus went through this abuse because of us. He came to earth to provide the means to salvation for man. We can be reconciled because of Christ's death.

As you read through these passages, think about this -- would a loving Father (God the Father) allow His only Son (Jesus) to go through these abuses, if in the end He was going to let everyone into heaven?

Of course not! Christ's death was necessary for us and it is necessary for us to humble ourselves and accept his gift of salvation.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for February 1, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 31, Genesis 28:10‐22, 2 Chronicles 5, Luke 22:1‐46

Psalm 31 -
14 But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

How much do you really trust God? For David, his trust extended to his very life. His times, according to verse 15 were in the Lord's hands. His desire was to be rescued from his enemies, but nevertheless, he would trust in God.

I was talking with one of my children the other day about persecution of Christians in China. He said that he would like to visit China some day. But, he didn't want to go until it was "legal" to be a Christian.

We talked together about what it is like to be a persecuted believer in Jesus Christ. Did you know that when the church has been persecuted it actually grows. Persecution leads to a deeper faith. It's almost always been that way.

One of the men who has influenced my life the most is Josef Tson. He was a Romanian pastor who led the largest Protestant church in all of Europe. He pastored for large number of years under extreme persecution. His life, like David's was in God's hands. He lived his life with the assurance that God was in control. Despite the persecution that Josef and his family endured, God blessed them and the church he pastored.

Do you trust God? Do you believe that your life is in His hands? If so, live for Him, no matter the cost! Persecution may come. In fact, if you are a follower of Jesus persecution is guaranteed to come. God will use that persecution for His glory and your maturity.

Genesis 28:10-22 - It's interesting to me that even though God made a covenant with his Grandfather, Abraham, and reaffirmed that covenant to his father, Isaac; Jacob has trouble placing his faith in God.

It's easy for people to assume that faith will pass down from one generation to the next. It doesn't just happen. The Holy Spirit was pursuing Jacob. Jacob makes a deal with God, regarding faith in this passage. God will come through, but it isn't because of Jacob's deal, it is because of God's sovereign will.

2 Chronicles 5 - I got chills tonight as I read the account of the completion of the temple, and the first worship service held in the new temple.

I remember when I was growing up. I attended Fox Valley Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois. Our church was growing rapidly, and the church needed to move to a new location. Property was purchased and a larger church was built. Moving into the new church was a special Sunday. There was such an excitement about moving into the house of God that the people had so faithfully built. But, it was nothing like the experience that Solomon and the people of Israel had.

The glory of God actually descended upon this building. God's glory dwelt in Solomon's temple. What an awesome thought. The priests could not even stay in the temple because of the glory of God.

I also got shivers thinking about the fact that we still often times sing the words of the very first worship song sung in the temple.

"For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."

Luke 22:1-46 - Alone and betrayed are two words that come to mind when I read this passage. Jesus was never truly alone that night, because He had perfect union and communion with the Father and Holy Spirit, but he was abandoned by those He loved. As I read this passage I'm struck by the intensity of the attack that Jesus went through on the night He was betrayed.

1) He battled Satan in the flesh, who had entered into the body of Judas Iscariot.

2) He dealt with bickering disciples, arguing over, of all things, who was the greatest.

3) He dealt with the physical and emotional trauma of preparing to go to the cross as he sweat drops of blood.

4) He dealt with the foreknowledge that His disciples would each take turns betraying Him, disowning Him, and abandoning Him.

5) He dealt with disciples who would rather sleep than pray with Him.

Our God went through so much that we might be redeemed!