Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maundy Thursday Service at Woodbury Community Church

Woodbury Community Church will have a Maundy Thursday service at 7:00 PM tomorrow night. It's going to be a special night of reflecting upon what Christ did for us on this night some 2000 years ago. We will have an extended time of worship, a short message entitled, To Be His Disciple, based on Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and communion.

Woodbury Community Church is located at 2975 Pioneer Drive in Woodbury, MN.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 31, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 90, Exodus 35:30-36:38, Esther 3, 1 Corinthians 8

Psalm 90 -
It amazes me how many men of God in the Bible were writers. Moses is best known as the champion that God used to deliver Israel from years of slavery in Egypt, but he is also the author of the first five books of the Bible, and this psalm. This Psalm would have been sung on multiple occasions by the children of Israel. It was a well known song, dealing with the mortality of man. Our years are few, and Moses wants us to be people who use our days well. It will take wisdom to walk in ways that delight the Lord. And wisdom is gained from Him.

Exodus 35:30-36:38 - I love this chapter! We met Bezalel and Oholiab a few chapters back. These were men who were set apart by the Holy Spirit to build God's tabernacle. They were gifted in craftsmanship. These chapters record the actual building of the tabernacle. The people are so joyful in the building of God's house, and are so generous in their giving, that in 36:6-7 we read, 6 So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

Can you believe it! Our church is involved in a comprehensive campaign to do much needed repairs and updates on our building. It's been so cool to see our people respond with generous giving of the resources and time! We'll be finished with our projects in mid-May. Each step of the process brings more excitement. I can imagine how exciting the building of the tabernacle was for the people of Israel. They were involved in not just giving, but in the actual craftsmanship, just like our people have been. It's such an exciting thing.

Have you ever been part of a group where you have witnessed such generous giving? What was the experience like for you? If not, what do you think the experience might feel like?

Esther 3 - A wicked person with power is a terrible thing. Such was the case with Haman. This evil man sought to destroy the Jewish people. He is one more in a long line of people who have sought the destruction of God's chosen people. It's interesting that Mordecai chose not to bow down to Haman. There was no Jewish law expressly forbidding people honoring leaders this way, but Mordecai saw something in Haman that disgusted him. Mordecai was a good judge of character. Often times, those who are not honorable are given high positions. But, God exalts the humble in due time. That will happen in this story.

1 Corinthians 8 - Paul now turns his attention to teaching the church at Corinth about the importance of love. Love is more important than knowledge. There were many in the church at Corinth who had come out of pagan religion where idols were worshipped. Some had not. Those who had not, saw no harm in eating the leftover food that had been offered to idols. Because, after all, idols had no true power. They were not really gods. Those who felt this way, felt like they had superior knowledge and that the other Christians would just have to deal with it. Paul wanted those Christians to make sure that in their knowledge they didn't cause a weaker brother or sister to sin. Paul reasoned that he could eat food offered to idols without sinning, but not without hurting another brother or sister in Christ. So, he gave up his liberty to eat in order that others not be harmed.

I love what he wrote in verse three: 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Tonight is the Wednesday of Holy Week. I have been thinking today about my own level of love for God. On that Wednesday night, so many years ago, Jesus must have reflected upon what He was about to do for us. He was a few hours away from going to the cross. I'm struck with the fact that I don't love God as much as I should. I'm reminded of Therese of Avila's quote from the 1500's:

Oh God, I don’t love you, I don’t even want to love you, but I want to want to love you.”

May we want to love God, and beyond that, love Him as Paul talks about in verse three!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 30, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 89, Exodus 35:1-29, Esther 2, 1 Corinthians 7

Psalm 89 -
The third book of the Psalms ends with a maskil by Ethan the Ezrahite. The psalm speaks about the promise that God made David that his kingdom would be forever. Ethan wonders why God has turned His back on His covenant with David. God had not. The covenant that He made with David would be fulfilled in Jesus. This third book of the Psalms has been full of sorrow. The children of Israel had walked away from God, and they were paying the price. Ethan reaffirms his faith that God will work on behalf of the people of Israel.

Exodus 35:1-29 - The Children of Israel have a very different response when Moses comes down from the mountain this time. They are ready to obey the law of the Lord. It is with great joy that the people make preparations to build the tabernacle. This is a beautiful picture of what happens when we follow God's desires and come together as one.

Esther 2 - The story of Esther continues with the king realizing that he needed to find a new wife. All of the beautiful young virgins in the land were brought to the king. Esther was one of them. God had her in this kingdom for such a time as this. She found favor in the sight of the king, and the king loved her more than any woman in the land. This would be important if God was going to move the heart of the king to compassion.

1 Corinthians 7 - Paul gives the church strong warnings regarding sexual desire in 1 Corinthians 7. In this chapter he lays out an argument for staying single, but for marrying rather than burning in sexual desire. Then he talks about the importance of intimacy in the marriage relationship. The Church at Corinth really struggled in the area of sexuality, and Paul wanted them to get things right in the area of sexual love. This is some of the most important teaching on human sexuality that you will find in the Bible.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 29, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 88, Exodus 34, Esther 1, 1 Corinthians 6

Psalm 88 -
This is another of the psalms of lament. The Sons of Korah write about a time where they felt the heavy hand of God upon their lives. They equate their feeling to that of dying. The psalmists plead with the Lord to spare their lives so that they might continue to serve the Lord. What is so interesting about this Psalm is that there is no place where the authors state their belief that God will rescue them or strengthen them.

There are times in life where our struggles seem so difficult that it is tough to imagine that we will ever come out of it. God was no less able to deliver in this Psalm than in any other, but there is no mention of God's deliverance. I believe that this Psalm was written in one of those dark nights of the soul in the lives of the writers. God is faithful even in our darkest of days.

Exodus 34 - Moses meets with God for forty days and nights as God once again writes the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets and establishes His covenant with His people. The amazing thing that happens in this chapter is that Moses' face begins to glow. When he spends time with God, the people know it, because His face literally reflects God's glory. He begins to cover his face with a veil in between meetings with God. What a special relationship Moses had with the Lord. The people did not become impatient this time. They believed that Moses would come back down from the mountain. They did not turn to false gods.

I'm glad God was patient with a stubborn people. He reflects that patience today as well. If you have breath today, thank God for another chance to live for Him, and vow to follow Him and only Him today.

Esther 1 - The book of Esther is one of the Old Testament's most interesting books. It is in this book that we get the phrase that we were put here for "such a time as this."

The first chapter of Esther shows us the moral backdrop that Esther found herself thrust into. King Ahasuerus was a wicked man. Married to Queen Vashti, the two monarchs found themselves living in luxury. The king loved excess. He and his Queen hosted a party that lasted 180 days. Towards the end of the celebration, the King asked his wife to come show off her beauty to the men of the kingdom. She refused, and he became enraged. This began a series of events that God used to rescue His people.

1 Corinthians 6 - Paul continues to teach the church at Corinth the dangers of sexual immorality. Remember, this is a church that was rife with sexual sin. Paul let's the church no in no uncertain terms the danger of choosing to walk in a manner of sexual sin. This type of sin will destroy not only a person, but can destroy a church and a family.

Paul also takes time in this chapter to talk about exercising spiritual freedom in areas that are not profitable to him, and how this is not do his advantage.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 28, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 87, Exodus 33, Nehemiah 13, 1 Corinthians 5

Psalm 87 -
Psalm 87 celebrates the city of Zion (Jerusalem) and the God who has chosen to dwell there (Jehovah). The Sons of Korah, as worship leaders for the people, wanted the people to recognize how blessed they were to be the chosen people of God. If you are a Christian today, you too should celebrate that Christ has chosen you. He has paved the way for you to become a son or daughter of Christ, forgiving your sins and reconciling you unto a relationship with the Father.

Exodus 33 - The relationship that Moses had with God was an extraordinary one. He spoke with God as a man speaks with a friend. The Children of Israel must have been blown away by the daily display of Moses talking with God. As Moses met with God, signaled by the pillar of cloud descending upon the tent of meeting, God met with His friend. That's right, like King David, centuries later, Moses was a friend of God. May we also be a friend of God. We have access to God through prayer. Take it. Spend time with God. He desires friendship with you.

Nehemiah 13 - The book of Nehemiah ends with the final reforms that Nehemiah would bring to Israel. I'm struck by Nehemiah's absolute commitment to making sure that the people didn't make the mistakes or fall into the same sins as they had in the past. He quickly confronts sin in this passage. He exhorts the people to live holy, set apart lives. They are not to follow in the ways of their pagan neighbors. They are not to marry their pagan neighbors. They are not to desecrate the temple by working on the Sabbath or selling their wares outside of it. He is quick to point out the sin of the nation and make definitive steps to correct the sinful actions of the people. He ends this chapter, and the book of Nehemiah with this prayer: Remember me, O my God, for good. Now, that's how I want to be remembered by God!

1 Corinthians 5 - Sexual immorality has no place in the body of Christ. Paul has heard about a specific case that was being tolerated in the Corinthian church. The man who was involved in immorality with his stepmother was actually boasting about his conquest! Apparently, the Corinthian church had done nothing to stop the behavior. Paul warns them that tolerating such behavior could destroy the entire church. It was important that this man be disciplined and asked to leave the local body of believers. Paul gives one of the strongest arguments in all of Scripture for church discipline in verses 9-13, which says, 9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 27, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 86, Exodus 32, Nehemiah 12:27-47, 1 Corinthians 4

Psalm 86 -
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
What do you think of when you think about God? A. W. Tozer once said, "What comes to mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you." I think for many of us, we think about fear when we think about God. We fear His wrath. We fear His response to our wicked hearts. We fear His short fuse.

But, that is an incorrect view of God. Psalm 86:15 reveals a beautiful truth about God. God is merciful and gracious. He is slow to anger. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. This means that God's fuse isn't short. He is slow to anger. When we give God cause to anger, be sure that He experiences it. But, He also understands us. He understands His creation better that we understand ourselves. He understands the struggle with sin that we have. He understands the temptation that we face. He understands the distractions in our lie. God is so good.

Exodus 32 - Exodus 32 is the sad story of the quick decline of the Children of Israel. God had so graciously delivered them from the hand of the Egyptians and when Moses was on the Mountain of God longer than the people expected, they assumed the worst and turned to the worship of an idol. It's interesting that they broke commandment one as soon as they began to lose faith in their leadership.

Moses' conversation with God is an interesting one as he intercedes on behalf of the people with God. This is the role of the priests. The priests would one make atonement for the people. This is what Moses did for the people.

Nehemiah 12:27-47 - There are certain times when I read the Bible when I think, "I wish that I could be an eyewitness of this event." The dedication of the walls of Jerusalem is one such event. This was such a momentous event to the people of Israel. I love the way that the Jewish people celebrated events like this. There was so much music. In this case, there were a few choirs singing on different parts of the walls. I would have loved to have heard what that sounded like.

1 Corinthians 4 - 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent 5 you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, 6 as I teach them everywhere in every church.

What an incredible example of discipleship! When I think about discipleship, I think about encouraging people to walk like Christ. Paul was so in tune with the Lord, that he could, with good conscious write, "be imitators of me." Why? Because, Paul imitated the Lord.

But, Paul didn't stop there. He then told the people to look to Timothy as an example. Timothy also followed Christ. Timothy had been discipled by Paul, and was a good example of what it meant to follow Christ. Paul's hope was that this dysfunctional church would become full of people who could write similar things. When we live like Christ, the world becomes a different place.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 26, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 85, Exodus 30-31, Nehemiah 11:1-12:26, 1 Corinthians 3

Psalm 85 -
Psalm 85 is another psalm of lament, this time written by the Sons of Korah. The people are anxious for God to work on their behalf. They recognize that the best way to deal with the tough situation that they find themselves in is to go straight to the God who can help.

So many of us look for solutions apart from God. When we make room for God to work, and when we look for the work of His hand, we are often times witnesses to a miracle. Such was the need of the people of Israel.

Exodus 30-31 - The Lord finishes giving Moses the law in these chapters. One of the things that strikes me is that God sets apart people to accomplish His will. The tabernacle would take a lot of work to build. There was such incredible detail that God wanted in both the tabernacle and its furnishings. So, God gives Bezalel and Oholiab the skills that would be needed to make this project work.

Being a part of the Body of Christ is a beautiful thing. He has given His church everything we need to accomplish His purposes. We are lacking nothing in the area of giftedness in order to do what He has called us to do. It just takes people with the gifts to step up. That is what God would do through Bezalel and Oholiab.

Nehemiah 11:1-12:26 - This section of Scripture records the names of the families who would settle in the city of Jerusalem. It's interesting to me that the leaders saw fit that one out of every ten Jewish people should live in Jerusalem. Never again did this group of leaders want to see a siege against the city succeed.

1 Corinthians 3 - There is nothing that makes God look so bad as a church that can't get along. Paul was furious with the Corinthian believers' lack of love. He told them that they were like spiritual babies, incapable of eating spiritual "meat." They had much work to do in the area of spiritual growth, and getting along. Paul's words in verses 16-17 give us a key for how we can overcome such sin: 16 Do you not know that you 12 are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? We should be people who walk in the power of the Spirit. As the Holy Spirit controls us, so we can be used by God to change this world.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 24, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 83, Exodus 27:20-28:43, Nehemiah 9, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Psalm 83 -
This is another of Asaph's psalms of lament. He is asking for God to intercede on behalf of His people, the Nation of Israel. In these psalms it is common to see the psalmist ask God to wipe out the enemies of Israel so that the world will see that God is the most powerful God.

Exodus 27:20-28:43 - It's interesting to read about the provisions that God made for the clothing that Aaron and his son's would wear. As priests in Israel, Aaron and his sons had a special calling. Their clothing reflected that clothing. As God's people today, our lives should look different to the world around us. While our clothing isn't anything special, the way that we reflect Christ to the world should be. We are a holy priesthood, a chosen people, and should live as such.

Nehemiah 9 - What an incredible scene! Ezra calls the people to repentance. The people gather for 1/4 of the day to hear the law read. Then for another 1/4 of the day, they repent of the sins that they have committed as individuals and as a nation. How fascinating to see the power of the word of God to convict hearts, even in such a mass crowd. Scripture is alive and able to convict the hearts of men and women.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 - 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. If ever there has been a doctrine that has come under attack, it is this doctrine of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who don't know Christ often times consider the cross and it's message to be foolishness. God's grace is so wonderful. Think today about the message of the cross, and how the cross has changed your life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 23, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 82, Exodus 27:1-19, Nehemiah 8, 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Psalm 82 -
Have you ever trusted in earthly rulers only to find yourself disillusioned in the end? If so, you can relate with Asaph, who in Psalm 82 expressed his discouragement with earthly rulers, and his absolute faith in God. Asaph was convinced that God was the only ruler who would never fail, and as such, God is the only one who can truly stand in judgment over the earth.

If you find yourself putting hope in political ideology, instead of God, you will be disappointed. No political system can solve the world's problems. Only God is capable of that.

Exodus 27:1-19 - God continues to give instructions for the construction of the tabernacle in this section of Scripture. I'm continually amazed at the way that God instructed His people to take such great care in the preparation of the place where He would dwell. He wanted the people to revere Him.

Nehemiah 8 - Jerusalem's miraculous recovery continues in this chapter. Ezra reads the law of the Lord to the people, and the people once again begin to obey God's law. The Festival of Booths or Sukkot, is reinstated, and the people are reminded of God's faithfulness to the Children of Israel throughout the years.

1 Corinthians 1:1-17 - The Apostle Paul opens his letter to the church at Corinth with a challenge to the believers to get along. The church was notorious for the divisions that took place within the church. Some of the believers argued that they followed Paul, some Apollos, and some Peter. Paul argued that they should all follow Christ, and not argue over petty issues. It's amazing how easy it becomes for churches to fall apart when division comes in. We need to fight for the unity of the Body of Christ through our head, Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 22, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 81, Exodus 26, Nehemiah 7, Romans 16

Psalm 81 -
When taken in context with Psalm 79 and 80, Psalm 81 serves as God's answer to Asaph's repentance on behalf of the people. Yesterday, I wrote about Asaph's talk about restoration. God would restore His people, but He demanded complete allegiance from the people. Our God is a jealous God. He loves us so much that He doesn't want us to chase after other gods. When you read Psalm 81, read it as someone who might be hearing these words in Israel, during the time of Asaph may have read the words. You would have been guilty of breaking covenant with God. These words would have been both terrifying and encouraging. God wanted to work on behalf of the people, but they needed to show faithfulness to Him.

Exodus 26 - When you read Exodus 26, you see the specific instructions for the building of the tabernacle. As I read, I was particularly impressed by the detail that God had the people put into the fabrics that would make up the tent. He wanted cherubim to be skillfully woven into the fabric. This was because God is surrounded in Heaven's throne room by cherubim. The presence of God would be in the Tabernacle as well. The woven cherubim would have reminded the people just who it was that they were worshipping.

Nehemiah 7 - The walls around Jerusalem had been completed. Now Nehemiah ordered guards to be put on the walls to protect the city. The Lord was gracious to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, allowing the Jewish people to return to the city. The homes were not built, but the people returned. It must have been amazing to live in Jerusalem during those days. There was hope anew! There was true community. There was rejoicing. And, God worked. Nehemiah's leadership made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. God loves to use those who are willing to be instruments in His hands.

Romans 16 - The book of Romans closes with personal greetings from Paul to different believers in the Roman church. I'm moved as I read about the impact that many of these people had in Paul's live and the impact that he had in theirs. How cool that Paul's first convert in Asia is in this church. How great that Rufus, and his mother, a woman who had been like a mother to Paul were in the church. Many people believe that this Rufus is the son of Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried Jesus' cross. If so, how amazing the impact that this moment had on Simon's life and the life of his family.

When I entered full time ministry, I had no idea how large my extended family would grow to be. I feel like I have family in Washington D.C., the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, the three regions that I have served as a pastor. But, I also feel like I have family in North Carolina, Peru, California, Massachusetts, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Colorado, Guatemala, Romania, Russia, Honduras, El Salvador, Tanzania, Israel, Azerbaijan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Somalia, Spain, Mozambique, Rwanda, and so many other places where my brothers and sisters in Christ from those regions or ministries are now living and serving the Lord. God is so good!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 21, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 80, Exodus 25, Nehemiah 6, Romans 15:14-33

Psalm 80 -
19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved! Restoration is a beautiful thing and a difficult process. I was at a couple of antique shops yesterday, and the difference between the two shops was like night and day. The first shop was full of rather cheap looking antiques. I'm not sure that there was much in the store that cost more than $100. The second shop was a different picture altogether. When I walked in, I was blown away at the beauty of the pieces on display. Many of the pieces commanded a price in excess of $10,000. The second shop featured many items that had been restored to their original pristine condition.

As Asaph wrote Psalm 80, he spoke of a nation that needed restoration. The Children of Israel had strayed from God. They had been punished. Asaph sought forgiveness and restoration. God would bring that restoration, but the process would be difficult. When someone becomes a Christian, God restores. We are seen in His eyes as forgiven and restored, holy image bearers of Christ.

Exodus 25 - The Lord gave Moses specific instructions for the furnishings that were to go into His sanctuary. It's interesting to read the detail that God went into with Moses. It's clear that God wanted His sanctuary to be beautiful, and He wanted the people to treat it with reverence and honor. I believe that God ordained these furnishings to help the people better understand Him.

Nehemiah 6 - 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. When you think about all that Nehemiah accomplished and the short time it took him to do so, you would think that he did it without opposition. That couldn't be further than the truth. Nehemiah continually endured opposition from him enemies as he sought to do what God called him to do. One of the beautiful parts of Nehemiah's story is that when God is in something, it doesn't matter how tough the opposition, God will accomplish it! Look how the enemies of Nehemiah responded when the wall was completed! They were afraid and their esteem fell greatly. Nehemiah's enemies knew that God had worked on behalf of Israel. (Remember, Israel was coming off a long captivity.) If the people of Israel could rebuild the walls in 52 days, what couldn't they accomplish with the help of God?

Romans 15:14-33 - The Apostle Paul is nearing the end of his letter to the Romans. He takes this time to share with them his calling as an apostle of Christ, and talks about his ministry to the Jewish and Gentile believers. Paul was excited about visiting the church at Rome, but it would have to wait until after a visit to Jerusalem to bring a gift of aid to the poor in Jerusalem from Gentile Christians around the region. How beautiful to see the infant Gentile church reaching out in love to the poor of Jerusalem. This is the church acting as God has called us to act; taking care of the widows and orphans in their distress (see James 1:27).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 20, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 79, Exodus 24, Nehemiah 5, Romans 15:1‐13

Psalm 79 -
The anguish was unbearable. The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The pungent smell of death loomed in the air. The enemies of Israel had succeeded in bringing the nation to its knees. Asaph's words in Psalm 79 speak of the great tragedy that Israel found herself in. The psalm is probably speaking about the Babylonian captivity, and Asaph begs for God's mercy and forgiveness. He acknowledged the sin of the people and went to the only One who could forgive such sin. Asaph and Israel needed God's intervention now more than ever.

Exodus 24 - God had finished telling Moses the law. Now it was time to confirm the covenant with the people. Moses went back down to the people and told the people what God had told him. The people agreed to the covenant with God. Then God asked Moses to come back up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone that God would write the law upon. Neither the people nor Moses knew how long he would spend on that mountain. In the end, Moses would spend 40 days and nights with God upon the mountaintop. The people would soon allow fear to drive them from the covenant they made with God.

Nehemiah 5 - Nehemiah has shown himself to be a wonderful leader. His leadership integrity continues to be shown in chapter five. When he recognizes that the poor are being oppressed he stands in the gap in their defense. When he speaks, he mentions in no uncertain terms that he is angry. The people responded by doing the right thing. When the righteous people of the world speak up, good things happen.

Romans 15:1-13 - The picture of Christ as a servant is prevalent in Paul's writings. He once again shows us this picture of Christ in Romans 15:1-13. In this picture, Paul also shows us how important it is for Jews and Gentiles to recognize our place as brothers and sisters of Christ. Jesus Christ is the hope for all nations.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 19, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 78, Exodus 23:10‐33, Nehemiah 4, Romans 14

Psalm 78 -
Psalm 78 is a historical psalm that reminds the people of Israel about all that God has done for the nation. It is also an important reminder to parents to be diligent in teaching their children the things of the Lord. God is faithful and His faithfulness has been shown from generation to generation. This psalm teaches about that faithfulness. This is one of the longest psalms in all of the Bible. It is a valuable learning tool for families to read through together. Our family will be leaving for Israel in a few months. I'm looking forward to reading this psalm while we are together in that wonderful country.

Exodus 23:10-33 - It is here that God makes fundamental laws for the Jewish people regarding the Sabbath and the festivals that they were to observe. He also promises the people that they will overthrow the land of Canaan. There are specific instructions given in regards to completely driving the Canaanites away, and not worshipping the false gods of Canaan.

Nehemiah 4 - Great opposition came to Nehemiah and those who were helping him rebuild Jerusalem's walls. But, Nehemiah continued building. Nehemiah was a leader, and God gave him both wisdom and the ability to motivate people. When opposition came, God had a leader ready, with the right gifts, the right spirit, and the right faith.

Romans 14 - Aren't you glad that God didn't put you in the position to judge the hearts of everyone else on earth? I know that I am. God is the judge. He doesn't need us to do His job. He needs us to do that which He has called us to do. And, you can be 100% sure that it is His job to judge, not yours. Romans 14 spends a great deal of time talking about judging others, but also not being a stumbling block to other believers with our spiritual freedoms. There are great points made in this chapter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 18, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 77, Exodus 22:16‐23:9, Nehemiah 3, Romans 13

Psalm 77 -
Asaph does something important in Psalm 77. He lists many ways that God has been faithful to the nation of Israel in the past. There are many times in the Psalms where the psalmist will list God's faithfulness to the nation of Israel. This is done in order to help the people trust in God's future faithfulness. From verse one to the end, Asaph trusts in God. I like that he writes, "I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will here me." We never have to question whether God hears our prayers. He can be counted on to listen to His people.

Exodus 22:16-23:9 - God lays down laws about social justice in this section of Exodus. Twice in these few verses He talks about taking care of a sojourner, reminding Israel that they were once sojourners in the land of Egypt. God wants us to care for others. He wants his people to be marked by love.

Nehemiah 3 - Remarkable detail went into the project of rebuilding Jerusalem's walls. That building begins in Nehemiah 3, and the details regarding builders and and the wall specifics are given in this chapter. Nehemiah took a giant step of faith to work on the wall. God loves to work through people's faith.

Romans 13 - Paul continues his practical teaching on how to live as a Christian by teaching us to submit to authority. He then talks about the importance of love. Anybody can show love to someone else. It's God's desire that Christians display love. Love fulfills the law and impacts people. If we love God and love others, we will fulfill all the law.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 17, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 76, Exodus 21:12‐22:15, Nehemiah 2, Romans 12

Psalm 76 -
Psalm 76 is a song of celebration. From beginning to end, God is glorified. Asaph wants Israel to celebrate that God has chosen Zion as his dwelling place. I like how Asaph implores the people to make vow to the Lord in verse 11. God has made a vow to Israel, and Israel should respond likewise. The New Covenant has allowed all men and women to make such a vow to God. Vows are sacred and not to be broken. May our faith reflect that!

Exodus 21:12-22:15 - God continues to lay out the rules of covenant living for the Children of Israel. I did not add any notes to this section.

Nehemiah 2 - Nehemiah's life is a great example of visionary leadership. God led Nehemiah to build the walls of Jerusalem back up. It was a huge task, and most improbable, considering that Nehemiah was in Persia. King Artaxerxes' heart was softened to Nehemiah's request to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. This in itself was miraculous.

Then, the people of Jerusalem showed open hearts to God's plan. It is clear that when God is behind a plan, that He opens the doors. That doesn't mean that we won't face opposition. By the end of the chapter, two troublemakers named, Sanballat and Tobiah seek to stop the work. Nehemiah didn't let their discouragement dismay him.

Romans 12 - This is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. In Romans 12 we find such practical teaching on what it means to be a Christian.

The chapter begins in many translations with the word, "Therefore." In the context of Romans, the Apostle Paul is basically saying, "Based upon everything that you have read in Romans 1-11, here is how you are to live."

As you read the chapter, you can find at least 36 different commands that Paul gives us for living a life that pleases Christ. I'd encourage you to write down as many of the imperatives for Christian living as you can in this chapter, and begin to put at least one into practice each day for the next several weeks. See what God does in your life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 16, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 75, Exodus 20:18‐21:11, Nehemiah 1, Romans 11

Psalm 75 -
There is a simple and pure quality about Psalm 75. Asaph simply praises God for all of His wondrous works for the nation of Israel, and then rejoices that God is the righteous judge, Who will one day lift up the righteous and judge the wicked. Asaph was able to put complete confidence in God, because he remembered how God had worked in the past. When we struggle in our relationship with God, it would due us good to remember the faithfulness of God in past times.

Exodus 20:18-21:11 - Think about what it must have felt like to be Moses! Thunder and flashes of lightning, the sound of the trumpet, the mountain smoking, a throng of people below you, trembling, imploring you to speak to God, and you stand in the thick darkness where God was to speak to him! What a man this Moses was! And, what a God his God is. The Lord began to give Moses additional laws in this chapter. These laws were to govern the lives of God's covenant people.

Nehemiah 1 - Nehemiah opens with a report on the sad condition of the city of Jerusalem. The wall had been broken down. The city was destroyed by fire. The remnant who was there and had survived were down.

So, Nehemiah responded with weeping, and then prayer and fasting. Nehemiah was not afraid to show his emotions. He asked God to remember His covenant people. Nehemiah did the right thing. He went to God when Jerusalem was at it's lowest. God would answer in awesome ways!

Romans 11 - It has been said that Romans 1-11 make up the great doctrinal portion of the book of Romans, and Romans 12-16 make up the practical application of the doctrinal truths presented in the first eleven chapters. I agree with that.

So, Paul ends his great doctrinal section of the book by teaching about the relationship that Jewish and Gentile believers have with each other. God has grafted in Gentile believers with those Jewish believers who have trusted in His son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It is important for the body of Christ to get along and to recognize how special each believer is. This chapter should be a blessing to anyone who is a follower of Christ, for it shows the lengths that Christ went to in order to allow each of us to be a part of His family.

Join us for Walk Through the Bible's Old Testament Seminar at Woodbury Community Church, April 11, 2010

Walk Thru the Bible is Coming to Woodbury Community Church on Sunday, April 11. Join us for a life-changing day as we discover the Old Testament in powerful ways. Check out this video, and if interested call the church office at (651) 739-1427 to register you and your family today!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 15, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 74, Exodus 20:1‐17, Ezra 10, Romans 9:30‐10:21

Psalm 74 -
The temple was the greatest symbol of national pride in the nation of Israel. And now it lay in ruins. Psalm 74 is a psalm of lament, meant to be sung by the people to remember what had happened to God's temple. It is a psalm of Asaph, and it reveals the depth of despair that the people must have felt as they reflected upon that which was now lost. The psalm asks God to work on behalf of His people. In our toughest days, there is nowhere to turn but God. That is what Asaph does, and calls the people to do as well.

Exodus 20:1-17 - Ten Commandments, given from God to Moses for the Children of Israel. These commands make up the moral fabric of society. Thousands of others laws would come, but there would be no need for these laws if the Ten Commandments were lived out.

When Jesus was asked in the New Testament what the Greatest Commandment was, He answered to love the Lord your God with all of you heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is like it; to love your neighbor as yourself. if we love God first, and love others second, we will never be guilty of breaking any of these commands. Our sin is a result of choosing to believe that our way is better than God's. Choose wisely.

Ezra 10 - Ezra ten picks up where the last chapter left off. The people recognize their sin in marrying foreign women. The vast majority make amends before God. They put away their foreign wives and covenant themselves once again to God. It seems harsh in our western mindsets to see such behavior, but God was calling these men to live a holy life, set apart to Him. They were his people, and were not to intermarry with those who were not.

Romans 9:30-10:21 - Paul reasserts that salvation is for everyone, Jew and Gentile, but that we have a responsibility in the matter. In Romans 9, we read about a God who calls people to Himself. In Romans 10:9-10, we read about our responsibility in the matter:

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

How many people there are who miss heaven because of the distance between their head and their heart. We must humble ourselves and accept God's free gift of salvation. We must allow Jesus Christ to rule as Lord of our lives. We must recognize that Jesus is who He said that He was. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. We must recognize that because of Jesus' resurrection power, all of us have the gift of salvation available to us. The question is, "Will we accept Christ's free gift?"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 14, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 73, Exodus 19, Ezra 9, Romans 9:1-29

Psalm 73 -
Book three of the Psalms opens with a wonderful testimony of the way that God had worked in the life of the psalmist. This psalm was written by Asaph. At first we see a man conflicted. He writes as one who is frustrated by the fact that the wicked not only prosper, but that their life looks better than his. In verses 16-17, Asaph worships God in His temple and his entire perspective changes. The psalm literally turns itself around. Instead of seeing things from a skewed, earthly perspective, Asaph now has God's perspective. Instead of seeing all that he is missing by not living according to the world's standards, Asaph realizes who he is in Christ.

We could learn much from this psalm. Asaph's struggles mirror contemporary culture. Many of us struggle with the desire to be just like the world. God has a plan for us that is so much better than anything that the world can offer us. We can lose perspective when we isolate ourselves from the Lord. We need to spend time with Him in order to see this world with the correct eyes. Praise God for all that He has blessed you with today.

Exodus 19 - This is a crucial chapter in the book of Exodus. It is here that God and the Children of Israel make a covenant with each other. He will be there God and they will be their people. God chose the people of Israel for Himself, and they too chose God. After making the decision that God would be the One that they followed, the Lord made Moses an intermediary between God and the people. Moses and Aaron were allowed on God's holy hill. The people were not. How awe inspiring it must have been to see the power of God displayed on that mountain! The people heard God's voice. The people saw great displays of God's power. God let the people know in no uncertain terms however that to come on the mountain would cost them their lives. Why? He was establishing the concept of His holiness, and being a people who are set apart to a holy God.

I appreciate this note from the ESV Literary Study Bible: The people of Israel reach the goal of their pilgrimage and camp at the foot of Mount Sinai (vv. 1–2). Moses alone goes up the mountain to meet with God, who invites his people to belong to him in the covenant and to be his treasured possession among the nations (vv. 3–6). The people accept this invitation and go through elaborate preparations to consecrate themselves for the holy worship of God. The tension in this chapter comes from the dangerous presence of God, who is so awesome that people may not even touch his holy mountain (vv. 12–13, 21) but can only tremble at the divine glory they see in fire and smoke and hear in the thundering voice of God (vv. 16–18). This dramatic portrayal of divine majesty serves to emphasize the crucial role of Moses as the mediator who goes between the people and God. The dominant literary motif is the *theophany—the appearance of the deity amid spectacular natural displays.

Ezra 9 - God had set the Children of Israel apart to Himself. As such, He had established a number of laws that they were to abide by. Among those laws was that the Children of Israel were not to intermarry with other nations. Somewhere along the line, it had become the cultural norm for the Israelites to intermarry with other nations. In Ezra's ninth chapter, Ezra takes stock of the nation of Israel. The people had drifted so far from God. Drift in one area and you are bound to drift in others. This was just one area that the Israelites were rejecting God's authority in their lives, ultimately allowing idolatry to creep into the land. Ezra pleads on behalf of the people for God's mercy, reminding the Lord that there was a faithful remnant following Him.

Romans 9:1-29 - Paul begins a new section of teaching in Romans 9. Romans 9-11 deal with God's plan for Israel. The Lord is not through with Israel. He still has a special place in His heart for the nation. They are a covenantal people. Paul begins to deal with the difficult question about what God does with a people who have rejected Christ as the Messiah. He teaches about God's sovereignty and the fact that God saves some and rejects others. As he teaches, he raises a series of rhetorical questions, which he answers immediately. In order to understand chapter nine, you must read it in context with chapters 10-11. Some of Scripture's most clear teaching on the doctrine of election is shown in these chapters. Paul shows how God sometimes allows people to reject Him so that He will ultimately be glorified. He uses Moses' interactions with Pharaoh as an example of this.

The Literary Study Bible does a better job of explaining this than me. Here is what the study notes in that Bible say: Chapter 9 marks the beginning of a major new section in the body of the epistle. The apostle has just stated that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. But what about the Jews? Hasn’t God rejected them for rejecting the Christ? The next three chapters will explain God’s purpose for Paul’s fellow Israelites and in doing so will also probe the mysteries of divine sovereignty and the doctrine of election. The main point of the first section is that God is absolutely sovereign in saving some people and rejecting others. The apostle advances this biblical, logical, and theological argument by making the following points, many of them with reference to specific examples and prophecies in the Old Testament: to Paul’s distress, and despite having every spiritual advantage, many of his beloved fellow Jews have rejected the Christ (vv. 1–5); this does not mean that God’s promise has failed, however, because the doctrine of election teaches that God never intended to save each and every person (vv. 6–13); to answer the objection that election is unfair, Paul proves God’s justice by appealing to the example of his sovereign dealings with Moses and Pharaoh (vv. 14–18); to answer the objection that divine sovereignty eliminates human responsibility, Paul shows that it is God’s unquestionable prerogative to glorify himself by showing mercy to the people he chooses to save and wrath to the people he chooses to destroy, whether Jews or Gentiles (vv. 20–29). The rhetorical strategy of raising questions and then immediately answering them continues to dominate the letter.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 13, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 72, Exodus 18, Ezra 8, Romans 8:18‐39

Psalm 72 -
Psalm 72 represents both the last psalm of book number two of the psalms, but also the last psalm in the section of the prayers of David. I believe that Solomon was the author of this psalm. I love what the king prays for.

In this section we see a king praying that he might rule the people well, that he would take care of the poor in his land, and that all nations of the earth might be blessed through his kingdom. What awesome things for a king to pray for! It is a good picture of what righteous leadership looks like.

Exodus 18 - Moses had a terrific father-in-law. Jethro loved Moses. He genuinely cared for his son-in-law. When he joined Moses in the wilderness and saw all that was on the plate of Moses, Jethro gave him GREAT advice. Moses wasn't too proud to listen to godly advice. That is one of the signs of a great leader. Because Moses listened and created essentially the first government of the people of Israel.

Jethro knew the value of shared responsibility. Do you ever try to carry too much on your plate? It may be time for you to listen to Jethro's advice too!

Ezra 8 - I didn't add any notes to this section of Scripture.

Romans 8:18-39 - Paul brings this section of teaching to a close with an argument that all that we suffer on this side of glory cannot compare to the wonderful life that awaits those who trust in Christ as Savior. He then begins to describe God's love - a love that reaches out to everyone, calls all to Himself, and yet forces non one to choose Him. Then Paul declares that nothing can separate the redeemed from the love of God. God's everlasting love is described in great and awesome detail!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 12, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 71, Exodus 17, Ezra 7, Romans 8:1‐17

Psalm 71 -
As I read Psalm 71, I see the faithfulness of God written all over it. David was once again clearly spent. He had been faithful to God, and had seen God's faithfulness demonstrated to him, but he was desperately waiting for God to show it once again. I love the faith and the worship that David offers in this psalm. He is in despair, but not without hope. He is under siege, so he sends a prayer siege God's way. I love verses 5-6 of this psalm:

5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. 6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.

Exodus 17 - The Children of Israel had been gone from Egypt for a little while when they began to face opposition. The first opposition was wondering where food would come from. God provided the food for them (for a period of 40 years), then they worried about water and God provided water from a rock. Then they had a real test. An enemy army rose up against Israel, and Moses, who by this time had seen God work miracle after miracle through him, held the staff of the Lord above his head as Moses stood at the top of the mountain observing the battle. Every time Moses held his arms up, Israel prevailed. Every time his hands fell by his side, the enemy army prevailed. Eventually Moses' arms grew tired. It's in that moment that we see a beautiful example of a people who have caught a Godly vision. Aaron and Hur held Moses' arms up for him, and Israel prevailed; wiping out their enemy for good.

We need godly people to come alongside of us when we are weak. Aaron and Hur did the godly thing. They helped a brother in need, and God blessed a nation through it.

Ezra 7 - When I read Ezra 7, I just want to say, "Wow!" King Artaxerxes of Persia was the mightiest king of his time. He was not particularly known for being a godly man. But, kings who disregard God are nothing in the hand of Almighty God. The Lord worked on the heart of Artaxerxes to allow Ezra to not only go to Judah, but to bring the brightest and godliest men in the kingdom back to Judah with him. Then he told Ezra that the Mosaic law should be observed by the Jewish people. A pagan king wanted the worship of Jehovah reinstated in Judah! Now, that is a God thing!

Romans 8:1-17 - 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

I am a child of God! If you are a Christian, you are God's child. You have been made a joint heir with Christ. What wonderful news! Romans 8 spells out for us the life that we are to live because of the Holy Spirit's work within us. Following Christ is not always easy this side of heaven. Romans 8:17 indicates that it is the normative experience of the Christian to experience suffering this side of heaven. May we not forget that! But, as we live for Christ, may we remember that there is an inheritance in Christ that makes it all worth it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 11, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 70, Exodus 15:22‐16:36, Ezra 6, Romans 7

Psalm 70 -
4 May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

The words of Psalm 70:4 encompass a beautiful truth. Those of us who have experienced the salvation of Christ should forever speak about how great our God is.

As a pastor, there are certain times when I worship God and feel chills up and down my spine. That often times happens when I sing, How Great Is Our God or How Great Thou Art. There is something wonderful about proclaiming the greatness of God.

In what ways has God shown His greatness in your life? I'd love to hear about it.

Exodus 15:22-16:36 - It didn't take long for the Children of Israel to start grumbling upon the exodus from Egypt. Some felt that they had it better in Egypt, because even though they were slaves, they had plenty of food to eat and water to drink.

God would not leave His people in desperation. Instead, He provided food from heaven for forty years. Imagine what it would be like to be fed for 40 years from the hand of God! Such was the case for Israel. God loved these people, even though they were stubborn and often times doubted God.

Ezra 6 - King Darius was a good man. He was true to his word that the people of Israel should be able to build their temple once again. There were those who were threatened at what might happen if the Israelites were allowed to rebuild, Darius was not one of them. He was so true to his word that he made a threat to anyone who would stop the Jewish people from being able to do the work that God had allowed for them to do on the temple.

Ezra's sixth chapter records the completion of the second temple. This was the temple that Jesus would teach in many years later. This temple would stand until the Roman government would burn it down in 70 AD. It was completed in the year 516 BC. So, it stood for 586 years! The people of Israel rejoiced at it's completion, and once again celebrated the faithfulness of God during Passover.

Romans 7 - All people struggle with sin. Even the spiritual giant, Paul struggled with sin! He talked about the battle that he had with sin in Romans 7, even going so far as to call himself a wretched man. I love the hope that Paul gives us in this chapter. When we struggle with sin, the answer is found in Jesus Christ. He can rescue us from the battle that we have with the flesh. He is our hope and our salvation. Trust in Him today.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 10, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 69, Exodus 15:1‐21, Ezra 5, Romans 6

Psalm 69 -
You can see it all over the paragraphs that make up Psalm 69. David was hurting. His enemies were increasing. He was being talked about in negative ways by so many people that even the bums in Jerusalem were making drunken songs up about him. He had been waiting so long for God to answer his prayers that he described his waiting as making his eyes hurt. But, his trust remained in the Lord.

When we are down, when God seem absent, and when our name is drug through the mud by our enemies, we must not lose hope. God will work in His time. It's with confidence and faith that David wrote verse 13, may we say the same:

13 But as for me, my o prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Exodus 15:1-21 - Exodus 15:1-21 records the song of Moses and the people of Israel. This song represented pure worship and adoration directed towards God. The beauty of song for the Hebrew people is that it became an oral way to remember what God had done for them. The children and grandchildren of the former captives would sing this song, remembering what God did for the children of Israel.

Ezra 5 - The children of Israel had given up hope. They had forgotten that God had commanded them to build the temple. Haggai and Zechariah, reminded them of the priority of the work. The work had been stopped by Israel's enemies before. Now, the work continued and God's hand was with the people.

Romans 6 - There is a continual battle that takes place in our lives this side of heaven. Our sin nature battles the work of the Holy Spirit with in.

Our condition before we become Christians is that we are slaves to sin. To be a slave to sin is an awful thing. It means that sin is what once ruled us.

New life in Christ means that we are no longer slaves to sin, but we are slaves to righteousness. We can overcome sin's power in our life through the power of the Holy Spirit. This means that we must daily submit the rule and lordship in our life to God's Spirit. We must allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide, our conscience, and submit to His authority in our lives.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 9, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 68, Exodus 14, Ezra 4, Romans 5:12‐21

Psalm 68 -
Psalm 68 begins with a powerful declaration about the power of God over His enemies. 1 God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! 2 As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! 3 But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!

There was something that just struck me tonight about the imagery of wax melting before a fire. What a comparison to how the wicked will perish before God! It compels me to want to witness more so that more people will know the grace of God and not have to experience such horrific and yet holy wrath.

Exodus 14 - I have been a follower of Jesus since I was a child. You would think that after reading this story many times, and hearing read or listening to sermons based upon this event, I might get tired of the story. I'm not. As I read this story tonight, I felt like I was reading it for the first time.

Think about what this passage is saying! God miraculously saved the children of Israel from the most mighty army on the face of the earth. He separated the Red Sea! He allowed an entire nation to cross the Sea on dry ground! God is a remarkable wonder worker. If my God could do this, surely He can help me through any problem I face. God is good.

Ezra 4 - Talk about frustrating! You have waited years to return to your homeland. You became afraid to dream about such things, because you were afraid of disappointment. Finally, the day has come. You are not only released from the bondage of slavery, but you are instructed to rebuild your house of worship and your city. The work starts and for two years progress is made. And then comes opposition.

Such is the challenge the Children of Israel faced when rebuilding the temple and the city of Jerusalem. The work started and then was halted. It would take generations before the work would be completed.

I'm sure the people were discouraged. They probably questioned God. But all that they went through would make them stronger. God allowed these events to transpire in their lives. God would be glorified through what men meant for evil.

Romans 5:12-21 - I love Jesus. I can't help but write that after reading Romans 5:12-21. Just as Adam's sin ushered sin into the world, so Christ's death ushered in the opportunity for man to be redeemed by God. Christ's death on our behalf is the most beautiful act ever done for mankind. His death brought life for us, but it requires that we accept His free gift of salvation. Don't let your stubborn heart keep you from knowing God's Son.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 8, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 67, Exodus 12:31‐13:22, Ezra 3, Romans 5:1‐11

Psalm 67 -
Psalm 67:1 mimics the priestly blessing of Number 6:24-26. It is a common benediction that is used in churches. The first time I remember hearing the words, "The Lord make His face to shine upon you," was while preparing for my eighth grade graduation. Our class of middle schoolers was preparing to leave each other, and the last thing we would do as a class would be to sing the priestly blessing from Numbers. I remember thinking about all the places my eighth grade peers would attend school. I went to a high school that none of my junior high peers went to. I remember sincerely praying as we sang that God's face would shine upon my class.

I still keep in touch with many of those people. One of my eighth grade peers was Todd Beamer, one of the 9-11 heroes of Flight 93. God has used my classmates to do great things in this world. His face has truly shined upon them. What a wonderful thing to pray for!

Exodus 12:31-13:22 - It had happened. The Lord had delivered the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. And, as they left, the Egyptians showered the Israelites with gifts of silver and gold and clothing.

God took a personal interest in the Israelites. He knew that departing via the land of the Philistines might deter the Israelites, so He led them a different way, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The people must have marveled in those early days at how gracious God's escape route had been.

Ezra 3 - The temple was the most sacred spot in all of Israel. It not only represented national pride, but it was the house where God dwelt! The the temple was destroyed, due to the sinfulness of the people of Judah, a nation mourned. The captivity had been long and hard. A generation had died out. And now, God was on the move.

The building of the altar and the temple was such a special thing. There were still a few alive who remembered the old temple. When they saw the foundation being laid, they wept. They wept tears of joy, and I'm sure tears of regret for the years that the nation had rejected God, prostituting themselves to other gods. Restoration, whether a building or a life is a beautiful thing!

Romans 5:1-11 - Paul was constantly amazed that Jesus loved him. He was, after all, an ex-murderer of Christians. God had so transformed Paul, that no matter what trials he went through in this life, he was at peace. God had made him whole. God had justified and forgiven him. God, while Paul was still a sinner, died for him! And, God died for you and me, while we were yet sinners.

Romans 5:8 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It's simplicity and pure joy are awesome. God loves you, friend! He loves you so much!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 7, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 66, Exodus 11:1‐12:30, Ezra 2, Romans 4

Psalm 66 -
There is a beautiful verse tucked away in Psalm 66 that shows the passion that the psalmist had for sharing the wonderful things that God had done in his life.

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

When we share what God is doing in our lives, it encourages others. It builds God up. It helps restore the faith in people that God is alive and well, and working on behalf of His people. Sharing a testimony of God's working power is such an important part of the Christian life. If it has been awhile since you have shared what God is doing in your life, take some time to do it this week. When we look for God's hand, we are often times surprised at just how much He is doing, and how much we have missed.

Exodus 11:1-12:30 - The final plague that was pronounced against the Egyptians was the death of all of the firstborn children and livestock in the land of Egypt. God gave specific instructions for the Jewish people on how to prepare their homes so that the angel would pass over the homes and spare them. God also gave them specific instructions on how to prepare their meal.

This final plague was so severe that not one Egyptian home was spared. There was death everywhere. What a harsh punishment for the hardening of Pharaoh's heart.

This was the genesis of the Passover celebration that continues to this day.

Ezra 2 - Oh happy day! What an incredible day it must have been for the exiled peoples of Judah to be able to return to Jerusalem and their home towns after spending years of captivity in Babylon. Ezra's second chapter is a list of all of the family units represented in the exiles.

Romans 4 - Romans 4 answers an important theological question. How were Old Testament saints saved? Was it because of their works, or because of their faith?

Paul answers in no uncertain terms that Abraham, the father of the great nation of Israel, was justified by faith and nothing else. Just like you and me, Abraham was justified by faith in the Messiah. While he didn't know that Jesus would be the Messiah, for Jesus would not come for thousands of years, Abraham was aware of the fact that Messiah would come. He chose to place His faith in Messiah, long before the prophecy of Messiah was fulfilled. Abraham was justified by faith, just like those of us who have trusted in Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 6, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 65, Exodus 9:13‐10:29, Ezra 1, Romans 3:21‐31

Psalm 65 -
Prayer is a beautiful thing. It is one way that we communicate with God. David loved payer, and speaks of its power and beauty in Psalm 65. David was a warrior king, but also a man of tender prayer and worship. He recognized in his prayers the need to worship God and adore His name and His works.

We often times use the ACTS acronym when talking about prayer. A stands for Adoration; C stands for Confession, T stands for Thanksgiving, and S stands for Supplication. David had adoration of God regularly displayed in his prayers.

Exodus 9:13-10:29 - Three more plagues come upon the Egyptian people in this passage. The first was the plague of hail. Imagine the worst hail storm you have ever been in. Now imagine something much more terrible. Hail can be devastating to property and crops. Pharaoh had enough! He was ready to release the people. But, when the plague was over, so was his resolve to allow the children of Israel to leave.

Pharaoh's pattern continues with the next two plagues; the plagues of locust and darkness. These plagues would take care of the rest of Egypt's crops. Again, we see a hardhearted and wicked monarch ignoring God.

Ezra 1 - What a historic event! The Children of Israel had been living in captivity in Babylon for years. King Cyrus of Persia reversed the policy of previous administrations in the land and allowed for the captives to return home to rebuild their temple. God was working on behalf of the Children of Israel.

Romans 3:21-31 - Paul speaks of the fact that every human being that has ever lived is guilty of sin. There is no one righteous. None of us deserves God's grace, but God gave us his grace as a gift. It requires that we accept His gift by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus becomes Lord of our life, we uphold the law of God. Upholding the law doesn't save us, Jesus saves us, and He does that through our faith.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 5, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 64, Exodus 8:20‐9:12, 2 Chronicles 36, Romans 3:9‐20

Psalm 64 -
Psalm 64 is another one of David's psalms where he requests God's help. This time, David is being slandered by evil people. The imagery of the wickedness that comes from the mouths of his accusers is intense. David prays that the people would become caught in their own folly. He prays that their words would turn back upon them.

God repeatedly assures His children that the truth will one day be shouted from the mountaintops. David's responsibility here is to trust that God will allow the truth to be known. It will come in God's time. In the meantime, David must trust that God has his back.

Exodus 8:20-9:12 - It must have been so difficult to be Moses. He loved the Children of Israel, but I believe he also loved many of the Egyptians. He had grown up in an Egyptian home; in the very home of Pharaoh. God had told Moses that Pharaoh's heart would be hardened, but I bet Moses stood in disbelief after each plague was sent.

The fourth, fifth and sixth plagues were flies, the death of Egyptian livestock, and boils. Six plagues have now passed, and Pharaoh's heart is just as hard as it was in the beginning. Moses was learning much about how hard the condition of the human heart could be.

2 Chronicles 36 - The book of 2 Chronicles ends with the fall of Judah. How sad to see the nation fall to the hands of the Babylonians and Jerusalem destroyed so soon after the reign of Josiah. It would be interesting to read 2 Chronicles 36 in conjunction with the books of Daniel and Jeremiah. Judah's fall had everything to do with the nation continually rejecting God. A nation that honors God will prosper. There is no question about it. When we neglect God, and neglect His precepts, we are headed for trouble.

Romans 3:9-20 - There can be no question about where Paul stands on the righteousness of man after reading Romans 3:9-20. No man, woman, boy or girl is righteous. Not one of us have sought or understood God. We cannot pretend to be righteous because we follow the law, or say the right things. It is only through the righteousness of God that any of us can be found to be righteous. We all sin, and our sin has created a serious problem for humanity. We need a Savior. And, that Savior is Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 4, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 63, Exodus 7:14‐8:19, 2 Chronicles 35:20‐27, Romans 2:17‐3:8

Psalm 63 -
There is a beautiful picture that emerges in Psalm 63 about the love and craving that David had for God. He paints a picture of desperation for God and things of God. Nothing on this earth, not even life could satisfy David the way that God could. Is God your everything? Does your soul thirst for Him more than anything else in the world? I want that type of love for God. I want to love Him more than I love myself or the things of this world. What is it about temporary pleasures that hold the human heart so hostage? May we run to the things of God.

Exodus 7:14-8:19 - And so it began! God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh to ask for the Children of Israel to be released from their bondage, and Pharaoh refused. So, the first three plagues came. First came blood. The Nile was turned to blood. All the fish died. The water was undrinkable. A stench came over the land. You would think that would be enough for any leader to release the slaves. But, Pharaoh's heart was hardened. The next plague was the frogs that came all over the land. They were hopping everywhere. The frogs covered Egypt. But, that did not soften the heart of Pharaoh. Then came the gnats. Oh what a terrible bother the gnats must have been, but Pharaoh's hardened heart would bring no mercy on his people or the children of Israel. May we learn from Pharaoh's heart.

2 Chronicles 35:20-27 - The death of Josiah is a sad one. God was speaking through an Egyptian Pharaoh, but Josiah didn't listen. Instead, Josiah did what seemed right to him. He died in a battle that God wanted him to have nothing to do with.

Romans 2:17-3:8 - Have you ever been around someone that could talk a good talk, but didn't walk the walk? If so, you know that their talk falls flat when it isn't accompanied by practice. We should be a people who practice what it is that we say we believe. Paul accused many Jews of saying one thing and doing another. He said that God would judge those who behaved in such ways. It is the same way with Gentiles. God cares more about what we do than what we say. May our actions be the actions of people who truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He expects His children to walk like Him.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 3, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 62, Exodus 6:10‐7:13, 2 Chronicles 35:1‐19, Romans 2:1‐16

Psalm 62 -
Verses 11-12 speak to the fact that God is a God of steadfast love and is all powerful. We can trust in his faithfulness and love. He will render to men according to their work. In other words, our actions tell where our heart is. God is watching. Be sure of the fact that as He does, He watches as a God who is faithful and just and all powerful.

Exodus 6:10-7:13 - I had never noticed what God told Moses in Exodus 7:1-2:

And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Can you imagine God telling you that you would be like God to the most powerful ruler in the world? Moses, who had once again been giving God excuses, must have been shocked. God laid out the plan, and Moses and his brother Aaron agreed to follow God's plan.

2 Chronicles 35:1-19 - The faithfulness of Josiah, King of Judah is shown in this chapter. Not only did he follow the Lord, but he reinstated the Passover. Josiah took the Passover so seriously, that the chronicler tells us that the Passover had not been celebrated in Israel so well since the days of Samuel.

Romans 2:1-16 - It was earlier today (in Psalm 62:12) that I read about God rendering to each according to their work, and here it is again in Romans 2:6.

The apostle Paul speaks much about God's judgment as it relates to man's sin in Romans 2. It has been shown throughout the Bible that the human heart is exceedingly wicked. Paul reminds us to check our heart. God will judge the secrets of man. No man is without excuse for our actions, because the Holy Spirit is constantly speaking to us through our conscience about right and wrong. We need to be a people who seek the things of God.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 2, 2010

Today's Reading: Psalm 61, Exodus 5:1‐6:9, 2 Chronicles 34, Romans 1:18‐32

Psalm 61 -
"from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint," are the words that David uses when asking God to listen to his prayer at the end of verse two.

Have you ever had a faint heart? When our heart is feeling week, when we are discouraged, when we are struggling, it is good fro us to remember that God is our Refuge. He is our Rock. He can be depended upon no matter the condition of our heart.

Aren't you glad that God's faithfulness does not depend upon how strong our feelings are towards Him? May we ever praise His name!

Exodus 5:1-6:9 - Have you ever been frustrated with God? Moses was! At the end of Exodus 5, Moses asked God a very sincere question:

22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Can you relate? Sometimes God calls us to do something and it goes nothing like we thought that it would. Such was the case with Moses. The Egyptian taskmasters and Pharaoh made things tougher than ever on the Israelite slaves after Moses confronted Pharaoh. But, God's plan remained the deliverance of the Children of Israel.

When God calls us to do something, we have to continue to trust in Him; even when things seemingly get worse.

2 Chronicles 34 - What a king Josiah was! He took the throne at eight years old and reigned for 31 years. He was a godly man who got rid of the idol worship of his predecessor. He was also on the throne when the book of the Law was found. I'm stuck by Josiah's response to hearing the book of the Law read. He tore his clothes and wept at the spiritual depravity of his nation, and the judgment promised for lawbreakers in the Torah. God showed mercy to Josiah, for the faithfulness that Josiah showed to God.

Romans 1:18-32 - Romans 1:18-32 tells the sad tale of those who exchange the things of God for the things of the world. God eventually gave the Gentiles that Paul spoke of up to their sin, and Paul speaks of the tragedy of exchanging the things of God for sin. May we not make the same mistake, and may we help rescue those who are making those mistakes before it is too late!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Notes from my Bible Study for March 1, 2010

Psalm 60, Exodus 4, 2 Chronicles 33, Romans 1:1‐17

Psalm 60 -
Psalm 60 is a psalm of instruction. It teaches the Israelite army how they should pray when going into battle. Apparently, this psalm was written at a time when things were not going so well for Israel. David instructs the army to pray to the Lord for their help. To go into battle, relying only upon human strength and ingenuity would only lead to disaster. The people needed God's wisdom and God's blessing.

Exodus 4 - Excuses, excuses, excuses! It's what Moses first offered to God upon God's calling on Moses' life. God saw something in Moses that Moses couldn't see in himself.

Do we offer God excuses when He calls us to certain tasks? God had an answer for everyone of Moses' excuses, eventually allowing Aaron to be the spokesman for his brother. God equipped Moses for the task ahead of him, and God will do the same thing with you.

2 Chronicles 33 - "Some people gotta learn the hard way," was the lyrics of a song that I used to listen to all the time. Manasseh is an example of someone who had to learn the hard way. His father had been a righteous king, but Manasseh turned his back upon God. When Manasseh was brought into slavery, he repented from the error of his ways. He became a follower of Jehovah, after having worshipped at the altar of idols. Unfortunately, Manasseh's son, Amon, followed in Manasseh's early example. He too worshipped idols, and his reign only lasted two years.

Romans 1:1-17 - I have more commentaries in my office on the book of Romans than any other book of the Bible. I love this book, and am so excited to enter into the study of Romans.

Paul loved the church at Rome. When he wrote the book of Romans, he had not yet visited this group of believers. He had heard all about them though, because their faith was legendary. People around the world talked about the Roman church (vs. 8), perhaps because of the persecution that they endured under.

I love verses 11-12 of Romans 1. In each church I have served, I have used these verses on my first Sunday to convey my excitement about serving in that ministry setting. The words say, "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.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen those verses lived out in my life. Mutual encouragement of each other is a quality of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Paul ends this chapter with these powerful words concerning the Gospel:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The Gospel is so powerful. Nothing in the world can transform lives like the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I watched again yesterday in amazement as God led six people into relationship with His Son Jesus Christ, through the simple proclamation of the Gospel. When we proclaim the Gospel, people respond! We need to be obedient to proclaim the Word, and let God do the work of drawing people to Him.