Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Christ from birth

Matthew 2:1-23, Luke 2:41-52, Mark 1:1-8, Matthew 3:1-12, Luke 3:1-20, John 1:1-18

The Magi gave gifts of:

a) gold because Jesus is the King of Kings.
b) frankincense because Jesus is the Great High Priest.
c) myrrh because Jesus is the Sacrificial Lamb, slain for the sins of the world.

Compare Matthew 2:13 and 20:

13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."  14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,
20and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."  21So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

Joseph was not the father of Jesus, yet he still obeyed God's will in taking care of Jesus.

At first glance, it might seem that the following passage supports salvation by works. 

Matthew 3:7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

However, when coupled with Luke 6:44,

Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.

it is clear that the type of fruit produced is simply an indicator of the type of tree.  That is, we are judged on our identity (constitution), not works.  This is why we need Christ to make us a new creation, changing this heart of stone into a tender heart that seeks Him and allows the Holy Spirit to produce the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

Heavenly Father, I want to offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Christ every day with my life.  Lord, may the practical details of my life be affected by the reality of Christ's birth.  I pray that I will be an honorable and obedient man like Joseph - realizing that each member of my family is really yours and not mine.  I know that you will finish the work of refining me into Christ, but I pray that I will cooperate with you today!  May I not miss another opportunity to grow into Christ and enjoy the fellowship of unity and love with you, my Heavenly Father.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Christmas in September

Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-20, Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38, Luke 2:21-40

Yesterday was a fantastic day for several reasons:

First, I started the New Testament yesterday!  After nine months in the Old Testament, I am excited to read about the fulfillment of all of the Messianic prophecies - the realization of all of the Old Testament symbols. 

Second, in addition to our regular Sunday morning Bible study and corporate worship, we went out to a local public park and celebrated in the baptism of one of our Bible Life Group members.  Following the baptism, we celebrated Communion together.  It was a beautiful day at the park - perfect for celebrating the work of Christ!

Third, we went to see the movie Fireproof.  It was really good!  The film highlights several very important principles in marriage and other relationships.

This morning I read about the birth of Christ, His genealogies, and His presentation at the Temple.  There are several truths that I was reminded of, but also a few things that popped out.  First, the angel told Mary and Joseph independently that Christ's name would be "Jesus."  The angel told Mary before Jesus was conceived, and he told Joseph after Mary was pregnant.  The other thing I thought was so fascinating was that the angels and infant prophecies emphasized a global perspective of Christ's salvation:

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. ...
 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
 29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
      you now dismiss your servant in peace.
 30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
      and for glory to your people Israel."

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ.  He was born of the line of King David - the true Messiah.  He was also born of the line of Adam - truly man and truly God.  The breadth of His Salvation is limitless, because you loved the world so much that you sent Christ to redeem us from our sins so that WHOSOEVER believes into Christ may experience redemption and life!  Father, may my food be the same as that of Christ Jesus - to do the will of the Father.  May you use me to share the light of the Gospel among the nations!  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin and laid in a manger wrapped in graves clothes.  Amen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

zeal for holiness

Nehemiah 13; Joel 1-2

Nehemiah's heart is for purity; he wants the people to obey the laws not for the sake of religion, but out of a heart of devotion to God.  So, when he discovered that merchants were selling goods on the Sabbath, he kicked them out!  And then when he saw them camping outside the city gates on the Sabbath, he told them they better get lost or he was going to beat them up! (v. 19-21)  What a hoss!  Later, he beat the snot (and hair) out of some knuckleheads that had married foreign women, and he gave them a lesson on King Solomon while he was at it! (v. 23-27)

I pray this promise in Joel for myself, my wife, my Bible Life Group, my congregation, and all of the congregations of God's One Holy Church:

2:28 "And afterward,
       I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
       Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
       your old men will dream dreams,
       your young men will see visions.

 29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
       I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Heavenly Father, please pour your Holy Spirit on me and my wife, and use us to spread your Spirit - to express yourself among the nations!  Please give us dreams, visions, and prophesies - according to your will.  Lord, please give me a heart for purity and holiness like Nehemiah.  I pray that you will deliver me from all temptations, and help me lead those in my spiritual influence to holy living (perhaps in a more gentle way than Nehemiah).  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

random humility

1 Chronicles 9:1-34; Nehemiah 12:1-47

Last night I gave a couple of guys a ride "home" from church.  One of the guys shared with me how God has taken care of him through a lot of trouble and heartache: alcoholism, deliverance, divorce, homelessness - yet growth in Christ as a result.  His testimony humbles me and challenges me to trust God more.

Love Dare - the challenge today is to make special effort to greet my wife with love and enthusiasm.  I need to be better at being kind and sweet to my wife.  I think I usually act pretty melancholy at home, so I need to allow God to fill me with life and energy and express that in an encouraging way to my wife.

Heavenly Father, please help me be more humble.  Help me stay in your presence; help me worship you throughout my day today.  Please hold on to me because I can't trust myself to hold on to you.  Lord, please fill me with your agape love and flow your love into my wife through me.  Please give me energy and awareness to be an encouragement to my wife.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Nehemiah 9:38-11:36

Based on Biblical typology, symbology, and similarity, I think the recovery of Jerusalem, the Temple, and sincere Judaism during Nehemiah's time represents a recovery or revival preceding Christ's return.  I think we are in that recovery period.

Love Dare (I missed reading on Monday, and I didn't read yesterday until late last night, so it's all backlogged in today's blog):

Love is not irritable.  To be perfectly honest, I have a tendency of being hypersensitive about stuff.  The truth is, people (including my wife) are not out to get me, stuff just happens, so I need to grow some thick skin.  It's similar to patience.  My wife is really good about not being irritable.  I need to work on this.

Love believes the best.  I'm definitely a hypocrite on this one.  When my wife and I first met (in junior high), I was a strong pessimist.  Over the last decade, she has helped me transition to an optimist/realist (I'm still growing).  Unfortunately, I still get very critical and pessimistic during arguments, also during which I expect her to "always believe the best" about me.  The Love Dare challenge was to make two lists: one of all the things you love about your spouse, and the other things that irritate you.  During my Awakening three years ago, I resolved to remember the latter no more.  Hence, I complete only the first part of the challenge:
  1. She is a sincere Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  She's not a faker.  She's honest and transparent.  She doesn't pretend to have it all figured out, and she's open about stuff that she wrestles with.  She is the opposite of hypocrisy.
  2. She is an amazing wife.  She is so dedicated, so loving and kind, so sweet.  I think that's what I love most about her - her sweetness.
  3. She loves people.  She loves her family.  She loves her friends.  She loves strangers.  It's amazing how much she loves people.  She especially loves children.  Her eyes light up when she gets to play with children.
  4. She is a wonderful teacher.  She is dedicated to improving.  She spends a lot of energy to make sure that she does a good job.  It's not just her job, it is her vocation.  She knows that God gave her the ability and opportunity to teach, so she glorifies Him in her work.
  5. She is strong: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically.  She is an extremely strong person - and so balanced.
  6. She is gorgeous!  I think it's entirely appropriate to appreciate the fact that God hooked me up with an incredibly beautiful wife.
  7. (this list continues on a long way, but for the sake of brevity, I'll truncate here)
Love is not envious.  I'm not saying I don't ever get envious of my wife, I just don't think this is a big issue for me, but the point is duly noted.


Heavenly Father, please use me to bring revival to the Church and your Kingdom.  Make me a man of unquenchable worship, humble in who I am and what I have done, and wholly confident in Who You Are and what Christ has Finished.  Thank you so much for a wonderful wife; please help me appreciate her and all the other blessings you have given me.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Yahweh, my rock and my redeemer.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

the matchless benevolence of Yahweh

Psalm 146, 147, Nehemiah 7:73-9:37

Last week my wife and I intended to get up half an hour earlier to be able to go to the exercise room at our apartment complex and read/listen to the Bible while we exercise.  Well, a hundred things got in the way, so we didn't end up making it.  But this morning, we finally made it.  Not only do I need and enjoy it for my own personal health, but it is so satisfying to spend quality time with my wife doing something that I know she enjoys and desires to do as well.  Spiritual exercise, quality time, and physical exercise all at once - who would have thought?

146:7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
       and gives food to the hungry.
       The LORD sets prisoners free,

 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
       the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
       the LORD loves the righteous.

 9 The LORD watches over the alien
       and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
       but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

And if that doesn't convince you that His love is matchless, then check this out:

Nehemiah 9:5 And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.  7 "You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous. ...

OK, so how does this impact me, practically?  First, I need to make sure that I am praising God for Who He Is - with every ounce of my being in every moment of my life.  This is something that God has been working in me - to be conscious of His presence and His will in every moment of my day.  I'm not there yet, but I pray that I will be like the Psalmist who loves to meditate on His glorious identity all day long - morning, noon, and evening.  Second, I need to thank Him for what He has done.  He has blessed me with an incredible wife, family, Church congregation, education, profession in addition to the basic needs that I often take for granted (shelter, clothes, food, air).  I pray that I will reach the point where I am consciously aware of the fact that He is my very breath; to do His will is my food.

Heavenly Father, I praise you for who you are.  You are the Creator of the universe; you are in control of every little detail.  Nothing is outside of your power, and you have created all things for your glory and your good pleasure.  You are faithful to all of your promises, and your love has no end.  You love us in spite of our rebellious hearts and disobedient lives.  Lord, please help me be aware of Who You Are and how you are working in my life.  Help me be sensitive to the Holy Spirit today.  Help me live like Christ - aware of you and obedient to your plan, for your glory alone.  Thank you for the beautiful sunrise this morning.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

blessed pursuit

Psalm 121, 122, 123, 128, 130, 134, 135, 136

Psalms 121 and 128 speak to the wonderful experience we find in our pursuit of God - because Yahweh is good, and His love endures forever.

121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?
 2 My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.
 3 He will not let your foot slip—
       he who watches over you will not slumber;
 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
       will neither slumber nor sleep.
 5 The LORD watches over you—
       the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
 6 the sun will not harm you by day,
       nor the moon by night.
 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
       he will watch over your life;
 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
       both now and forevermore.

128:1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
       who walk in his ways.
 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
       blessings and prosperity will be yours.
 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
       within your house;
       your sons will be like olive shoots
       around your table.
 4 Thus is the man blessed
       who fears the LORD.

With a million things going on at home, church, school, work ... I must stay focused on running the race that He has called me to.  I must stay focused on pursuing, loving, and honoring Him every moment.  I wrestle with whether or not I am over-committed or simply under-focused.  Christ calls me to come and die so that I may truly live.

Heavenly Father, I pray that my life will be an offering poured out in loving devotion to you.  I pray that you will be always on my lips, that my mind will be consumed by knowing and loving you, and that my body will be spent in pure devotion to you.  I know that you will bless those who pursue you, but it is not your blessing that I seek.  I pray that you will reveal yourself to me!  Show me your face!  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

for the love of God

Psalm 111, 112, 117, 119:1-72

This morning I reclined on the couch to read the Bible, sunlight coming through the window, classical music playing softly, a hot cup of coffee, my wife taking a nap ... man, what a great environment to soak on the Scriptures!  Of course, the reading selection this morning was perfect for such meditation.  The Psalms blew me away this morning - essentially on two points:
  1. the goodness and love of Yahweh
  2. man's pursuit and delight in the person and will of Yawheh
A sampling:

111:1 Praise the LORD.
       I will extol the LORD with all my heart
       in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

      2 Great are the works of the LORD;
       they are pondered by all who delight in them.

      3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
       and his righteousness endures forever.

      4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
       the LORD is gracious and compassionate.

112:1 Praise the LORD.
       Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
       who finds great delight in his commands.

117:1 Praise the LORD, all you nations;
       extol him, all you peoples.

      2 For great is his love toward us,
       and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
       Praise the LORD.

119:2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes
       and seek him with all their heart. ...

      9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
       By living according to your word. ...

      10 I seek you with all my heart;
       do not let me stray from your commands.

      11 I have hidden your word in my heart
       that I might not sin against you. ...

      16 I delight in your decrees;
       I will not neglect your word. ...

      20 My soul is consumed with longing
       for your laws at all times. ...

      24 Your statutes are my delight;
       they are my counselors. ...

      30 I have chosen the way of truth;
       I have set my heart on your laws. ...

      32 I run in the path of your commands,
       for you have set my heart free. ...

      36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
       and not toward selfish gain.

      37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
       preserve my life according to your word. ...

      41 May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD,
       your salvation according to your promise; ...

      50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
       Your promise preserves my life. ...

      57 You are my portion, O LORD;
       I have promised to obey your words.

      58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
       be gracious to me according to your promise. ...

      68 You are good, and what you do is good;
       teach me your decrees.

      69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
       I keep your precepts with all my heart.

      70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
       but I delight in your law.

      71 It was good for me to be afflicted
       so that I might learn your decrees.

      72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
       than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.


Heavenly Father, I confess that my life does not demonstrate that I love you more than anything else in this world, but I want to.  Please turn my heart to you, because I know that nothing else in this world satisfies like you do!  I confess that you are more precious to me than anything in this world; I want to delight wholly in you!  You are good, and your love endures forever!  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who perfectly demonstrated your love and goodness, and of whom I am a disciple.  Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2008

perseverance and rudeness

Nehemiah 5:1-7:3; Psalm 1, 107

Nehemiah and his group faced some bold confrontation as well as some sneeky deception, and yet, they persevered.  It's one of those old truths that you hear wise people talk about: "Just stay the course."

Several of these verses from Psalm 107 are particularly refreshing:

 1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
      His faithful love endures forever.
 15 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
      and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
 16 For he broke down their prison gates of bronze;
      he cut apart their bars of iron.
 43 Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
      they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

The Love Dare challenges us to take care to not be rude.  Rudeness is not an attribute of love.  So, how am I rude?  I think I need to be careful with sarcastic remarks and saying things without first thinking them over.

Heavenly Father, please help me persevere.  Please give me strength, and help me see your goodness.  Help me not be rude, and help me be kind.  Lord, I thank you for being good.  I praise you for being good and loving me.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

serving God and being thoughtful

Nehemiah 1-4

When Nehemiah hears about the poor state of Jerusalem and the Temple:
  1. he mourned and fasted
  2. he confessed God's character - great and awesome, faithful, loving
  3. he confessed the sins of his people
  4. he asked for mercy
  5. he asked for grace according to God's past promise
  6. he prayed according to "delight in revering [His] name"
  7. he practically went before King Artaxerxes and asked for permission, royal authority, and financial support
When he got to Jerusalem:
  1. he assessed the current condition
  2. he organized workers
  3. they planned the work
  4. they worked diligently
  5. they adapted and improvised as opposition developed against them
In my own experience, I am currently wrestling with whether or not I am "doing" too much.  On the one hand, I am torn by Christ's statement in Luke 12:48: 

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

On the other hand, I am torn by God's word's in Psalm 46:10:

"Be still, and know that I am God"

The temporary conclusion I have come to (especially when considering the life of Paul, and particularly his statements in Philippians 3:7-21) is that Psalm 46:10 addresses the attitude of my heart, not necessarily the business of my lifestyle.  I think it is possible for me to be focused and intentional about honoring God and loving Him all the while "doing" a bunch of stuff; He is primarily concerned with the attitude of my heart.  As my focus becomes more of Him and less of me, then the logical consequence is that, like Christ, I will desire only to "do" the Father's Will - nothing more, and nothing less. 

Another case study is Mary and Martha; Martha's actions weren't evil, she was just missing the principal priority of sitting at the feet of the Master.  The goal is certainly not to "do" a bunch of stuff for God; He doesn't need my help to do anything (He spoke the universe into existence, for crying out loud!).  The goal is for Christ to grow in my heart, that I would grow in Christ, that the essence of my life (body, mind/soul, and spirit) would each day be more of Christ and less of my self.  The goal is for me to lose my self in Him.

The Love Dare today focusses on being thoughtful.  Demonstrations of love are both spontaneous (reactive - from the attitude of the heart) and premeditated (proactive - from that attitude of the heart).  One of the truths that I am reminded of from this Love Dare is that "loving" requires work; because "love is an action".  Indeed, I am challenged personally to be more thoughtful and conscientious toward my wife.  She is such a wonderful person, and I need to be more thankful of what a blessing she is and more proactive about thinking about how to love her as Christ loves the Church - practically.


Heavenly Father, I want to love you and seek you above all things.  I want to delight in revering your name.  I want to be close to you, and I want to worship you in spirit and in truth.  I pray that all of the "doing" of my life would be out of an overflow of my heart of love towards you - in response to your Grace.  I pray that I will not be distracted in a lifestyle of business and miss the priority of sitting at the Master's feet.  May I delight in you, may you be pleased with my life.  I pray that you will help me be more thoughtful and proactive about loving people, especially my wife.  Thank you for your many blessings, and thank you that I can come to you through the Blood of your Son.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who was thoughtful in His expression of your love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

dealing with sin and selfishness

As Ezra is leading the people to rebuild Jerusalem and the holy temple, it comes to his attention that many of the Israelites (including the priests and leaders) had married people from the pagan cultures around them - directly disobeying an explicit command of God for his holy people.  Ezra's response was:
  1. confessing their sin before God
  2. mourning for their sin
  3. cultivating a heart of repentance in himself and his people
  4. leading them to actions of repentance
Today's Love Dare discusses our natural depraved constitution - each of us is selfish from birth.  Indeed, I am aware of my selfishness, and yet, tragically, I am naive to think that I am fully aware of it's pervasive extent in my mind and life.  Fortunately, Jesus Christ is at work in my heart - crucifying this sinful nature and growing His own life up inside me.  I have been studying Ephesians 3 this week, and this verse grabs at me the most:
17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong.
I cannot change my sinful nature; I am helpless against my flesh, this world, and the enemy of our souls.  But, praise God!  He is so gracious and kind that He not only paid the penalty and debt of my sin; He is actively working inside me to change me from the inside out!
(Note:  I am continually impressed with how selfless my wife is.)
Heavenly Father, in you alone do I find salvation!  You save me from sin and death, and you save me from my selfish self!  O God, change me from the inside and help me trust you as Christ makes His home in my heart.  By your Grace, and by walking in step with the Holy Spirit, please help me live selflessly with everyone, especially my wife.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who gave up His self in submission to your perfect Will.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

praise and kindness

Psalm 106; Ezra 7:1-8:14

I recently heard it said, "Sin causes memory loss."  I didn't exactly know what the person meant, but then he explained.  We so quickly forget the rich love that God has shown us.  How tragic.

 1 Praise the LORD.
       Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
       his love endures forever.

 2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
       or fully declare his praise? ...

 13 But they soon forgot what he had done
       and did not wait for his counsel.

Here is a great Old Testament picture of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary:

 23 So he said he would destroy them—
       had not Moses, his chosen one,
       stood in the breach before him
       to keep his wrath from destroying them.

In concert with the Psalmist and all the other Saints, I pray:

 47 Save us, O LORD our God,
       and gather us from the nations,
       that we may give thanks to your holy name
       and glory in your praise.

 48 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
       from everlasting to everlasting.
       Let all the people say, "Amen!"
       Praise the LORD.

Today's Love Dare explains the kindness attribute of love.  Where patience is reacting in love to a difficult situation, kindness is proactively investing love and creating a positive situation.  My wife was very kind and patient with me last night:  The weather was unusually clear, crisp, and comfortable, so I asked her if we could take a walk.  Even though it was after bedtime, and even though we walked and talked for several hours as I shared with her some of my insecurities with my scholastic and spiritual responsibilities, she was so patient to listen to me and kind to reassure me of God's love and sovereignty.  Indeed, her investment of love toward me in sacrificing her time for sleeping (which is not insignificant considering the little amount of sleep she has had the last several weeks from working diligently to get her class off to a great start) and showing me that she cares has really energized me and stabilized my frustrations.  Perhaps I could most concisely summarize her actions towards me like this: she has shown me the love of Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your greatness, and thank you for your kind love towards me.  Thank you for giving me such a wonderful wife to encourage me and help me. Lord, may I show to her the love that Jesus Christ shows the Church.  I want to praise you with my life.  I really want to honor you and praise you.  Please help me love you more.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who demonstrated your kindness to us on the Cross.

Monday, September 15, 2008

sovereignty and patience

Esther 9:18-10:3; Ezra 4:6-23; Psalm 105

The attribute of God that I am most impressed with after reading Esther and Psalm 105 is sovereignty.  Yahweh is the creator of the universe, and His sovereign knowledge and control has never diminished.  Fortunately, He is intrinsically good, and His takes care to communicate His good character to us; that is, He LOVES us.  He shows us "agape" love - a steadfast, unfailing, and infinite love.

Psalm 105:

 1 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
       make known among the nations what he has done.

 2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
       tell of all his wonderful acts.

 3 Glory in his holy name;
       let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

 4 Look to the LORD and his strength;
       seek his face always.

 5 Remember the wonders he has done,
       his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, ...

 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,
       and a fire to give light at night.

 40 They asked, and he brought them quail
       and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.

 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
       like a river it flowed in the desert.

 42 For he remembered his holy promise
       given to his servant Abraham.

 43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,
       his chosen ones with shouts of joy;

 44 he gave them the lands of the nations,
       and they fell heir to what others had toiled for-

 45 that they might keep his precepts
       and observe his laws.
       Praise the LORD.

Our church is embarking today on an eight week challenge of relationships based on the book "Love Dare" featured in the upcoming movie Fireproof.  The attribute of love highlighted in today's challenge is patience.  Indeed, I am challenged to love my wife with "agape" love, and today I will particularly focus on the aspect of patience, but more than that - I want to honor my Heavenly Father by allowing Him to show His love in me and through me, for His glory.

Heavenly Father, I praise you because you are sovereign over everything!  There is nothing that is outside of your control.  Thank you for cool, refreshing breeze and the beautiful sunrise this morning that are testimonies of your goodness and love.  Heavenly Father, teach me to delight in your ways and seek your face.  Please keep me from slipping into legalism and self-righteousness; I simply want to delight in who you are.  Please grow in me your patient, agape love.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who patiently endured the Cross. Amen.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

big picture

Esther 1-4

Timeless story:  good guy, bad guy, conflict, showdown (That's as far as we get today; we'll have to wait for the resolution until tomorrow.)

There are at least two famous lines from the whole book of Esther is:

4:14 ... And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?

4:16 ... And if I perish, I perish.

which speak to Gods sovereignty and the necessity of our cooperation with Him as He accomplishes His will through us.

But this morning I was noticing a subtle theme of respect for authority.  Mordecai was Esther's cousin and caretaker, and Esther obeyed Mordecai's instruction (2:10, 2:22, 4:15-16).  Esther was also obedient to Hegai, King Xerxes's head servant in charge of the search for a new queen (2:15).  I think you can draw a stark contrast between Esther's submissive and obedient behavior when you compar her to the stereotypical proud and selfish American culture.  Somehow, the fact that God the Father demonstrated authority over God the Son, and the fact that Jesus Christ submitted to His Father's will doesn't communicate to our fallen sinful mind that God-centered authority and submission are beautiful.  The attribute of love is communicated through this authority-submission dynamic.

This means that I need to take special care to obey Ephesians 5:21 that says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."  I need to make speciall effort to submit to my wife and love her like Christ loves the Church.

Heavenly Father, please help me see the people in authority over me, and help me submit to them out of reverence for Christ.  Lord,  above all, please help me submit to your authority and show you that I love you as I submit to your perfect will.  God, please help me show my wife the Love of Christ.  I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Messianic prophecy

Zechariah 10-14

Zechariah is rich with prophecies about Christ:

11:12 I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.  13 And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.

12:10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.

13:7 "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
       against the man who is close to me!"
       declares the LORD Almighty.
       "Strike the shepherd,
       and the sheep will be scattered,
       and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

The fact that all of this is spoken 500 years before Christ fulfilled every single little detail is incredible!  It demonstrates that God not only knows everything, He also controls everything to work out His plan like clockwork.

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your infinite knowledge and power.  I thank you that you sent your Son to pay the penalty for my sin.  It was no accident.  Thank you for bringing me into your Kingdom, and I ask that you help me live according to your plan.  I trust that you are able, so I give you my life.  Please take me and use me for your glory.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

praise Yahweh

Psalm 118, 129, 148, 149, 150; Ezra 6:19-22; Zechariah 9

From Psalm 118:

 24 This is the day the LORD has made;
       let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 25 O LORD, save us;
       O LORD, grant us success.

 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
       From the house of the LORD we bless you.

 27 The LORD is God,
       and he has made his light shine upon us.
       With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
       up to the horns of the altar.

 28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
       you are my God, and I will exalt you.

 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
       his love endures forever.

This reminds me of Revelation 4:

8 Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

   "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—
      the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come."

 9 Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), 10 the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

 11 "You are worthy, O Lord our God,
      to receive glory and honor and power.
   For you created all things,
      and they exist because you created what you pleased."

We were created to praise Him because HE IS WORTHY OF OUR PRAISE!  He is worthy because He is INFINITELY GREATER than any other being!  I want my life to be a constant praise to Him.  I want Him to be pleased with my life for His sake.


Heavenly Father, I want to praise you.  Help me praise you.  Help me praise you in more that words; help me praise you with my life.  I pray that my life would be a testimony of your goodness and your mercy and that my love for you would be true and genuine.  I pray that you will be pleased with me, and the only way for that to happen is for you to grow Christ in me and grow me into the Body of Christ.  Please gain me for your glory.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

what am I doing?

Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5-6:18

Z 7:4 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: 5 "Ask all the people of the land and the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? ... 9 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'

What is my true motivation for everything that I do?  To be honest, I think I'm pretty selfish.  But I desire to change, and I hope that God will change my heart so that everything I do (fasting or feasting) will be motivated out of a desire to love and honor Him.  This is what it would look like if we were all living expressions of the One True God:

Z 8:20 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, 'Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.' 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him." 23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.' "

Heavenly Father, please change my heart so that I am not focused on myself.  I pray that all enjoyment I have would be centered on who you are.  I pray that any spiritual devotion that I demonstrate (including what I'm doing right now) would be motivated by your Holy Spirit working inside me for your ultimate glory and satisfaction.  Lord, I pray that I will be faithful to practical expressions of your love and kindness: loving justice and mercy; supporting the widow, orphan, foreigner, and poor.  O Father, would you please remove the evil in my heart so that I can love others like you love them.  Lord, please fill me with your presence and cause me to live as an expression of you so that the nations will see you and know you and be drawn toward you in repentance because of your kind mercy.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

burning stick

Zechariah 1:1-6:15

I've been really sleepy and tired these last several weeks, and I'm really wearing thin.  These last few days I've been so tired that it is difficult to be motivated toward the Lord, so I've simply asked Him to turn my heart toward Him and fill me with His love and spirit.  He is so kind to reveal Himself, and He is so faithful as we approach His Word in humility.  These verses at the beginning of Zechariah show God's incredible mercy and love and His desire to fill us with Himself:

1:2... 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty. ... 2:4... 'Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. 5 And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.'

I love the Messianic prophecy in chapter 3:

3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" 3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you." ... 8 " 'Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. 9 See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.  10 " 'In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,' declares the LORD Almighty."

I am simply a "burning stick snatched from the fire" of Hell! And I don't answer to Satan because Yahweh has redeemed me by the Blood of the Lamb!  He can take away my filthiness and clothe me in the richness of Christ because He removed the sin of the world in a single day!  And now I invite others to join me in experiencing His Life!

4:6 So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.

Heavenly Father, fill me with your Spirit today!  I want to walk in your Life!  You are so kind that you would grab me out of the fire (just a filthy burning stick) and clothe me with Jesus Christ!  I want to honor you with my life!  Lord, please help me invite my neighbors to sit under your vine and fig tree.  Empower me with your Holy Spirit!  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Branch, the Stone, the Redeemer.

Monday, September 8, 2008

church building

Psalm 97, 98, 99, 100; Ezra 4:1-5, 24; Haggai 1:1-2:23

Ezra records the account of God working through Cyrus king of Persia to actually send Israelites back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  Unfortunately, once they got there, they were discouraged by bad guys and got distracted with constructing their own houses.  So, God sent Haggai to bust their chops and get them back to business:

Haggai 1:2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' "

 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"

 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

 7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD. 9 "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house."

What was so significant about the LORD's temple in Jerusalem?  Was he really that partial to a physical building?  Or was it something more - something spiritual?  I think the significance of the Temple is that was the container of Yahweh's Glorious Presence.  The New Testament reveals that each of us is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we collectively are the body of Christ:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Ephesians 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

So, we see from the New Testament that not only are we a part of God's spiritual "building" (I like to think of God as the perfect civil engineer), but we are to be engaged in His grand construction project!  Instead, we get so distracted by nice houses, fast cars, and boats on the lake.  And then we wonder why God doesn't bless our country-club style "churches".  He would break loose if we would devote ourselves to His building project - the ONE TRUE CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST!

I want to be focused on building the Church, for His glory and His fame alone.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that redirects me from my natural self-focus to a God centered focus.  Lord, your Word reveals that your building project is to glorify yourself with the Church - the Branches of the True Vine, the Body of Christ, the pure Bride of Christ, and the Building on the Cornerstone.  Father, please use me to build your Church; may I drop everything of my natural flesh and only depend on your Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts you have given me.  Please encourage me and help me encourage others to labor in love for your Kingdom.  I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Ezra 2:21-70; Nehemiah 7:26-73

This past week has been a pretty tough week.  I had a really big quarterly report due to the people that fund my research (urgent and important).  I have a weekly responsibility to prepare for teaching and discussion at Bible study (semi-urgent and important).  I had to prepare lectures for the chemistry class that I'm teaching (urgent and important).  I helped a friend move on Labor day because it was pretty much the only day he could move (urgent and important).  The weekly visitation and evangelism program at our church started this Wednesday (important).  We have small group prayer breakfast on Tuesdays, and church-wide prayer breakfast on the first Thursday of every month (important).

Even more important that all of that stuff is my daily pursuit of God (Scripture, meditation, prayer, etc.) and my wife.  The truth is, I need to be a better husband.  I need to make sure that I am loving God with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength and that I'm loving my wife as myself.  I need to maintain a steady investment into my relationship with God and my wife.  The incredible opportunity of a marriage with two Believers is that we can experience the "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also" promise.  I want to be a better spiritual leader of me and my wife.  I want to invest into her and make sure that she experiences Gods love through me.

Even though today's reading was mostly a bunch of names and places, the big picture truth is so profound:  God restored the nation of Israel after allowing them to suffer the consequences of their idolatry and rebellion against Him.  Similarly, I believe that God is not only able to restore a marriage from any tragedy, He WANTS to restore a marriage because marriage is intended to be a picture of Christ and the Church.  I want to be faithful to that parallelism and allow Christ to live through me so that the love He shows my wife is a picture of how He loves the Church. 

As an adopted child of God, I want to love Him with everything that I am.  As a husband, I want to invest in my wife an build her up - to empower her to pursue God and realize the full purpose that God is calling her to.  And as a teacher in the Church, I want to allow God to use the spiritual gifts that He has given me to build up the body of Christ, and I want to strike down anything of my self that will damage the Church.

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your faithfulness, and I praise you for your kindness.  You are just, and you allow us to experience the consequences of our mistakes.  But you are also loving, merciful, and kind, and you are so gracious to restore us to an instrument that you can use.  Father, would you make me an instrument that you can use? I pray that you will make me a man that pursues you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.   Please make me a husband that demonstrates the person and love of Jesus Christ to my wife.  And please make me a constructive and humble member of your living Body so that I may be used by you to build your Kingdom.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

man of integrity

Daniel 6; Ezra 1-2:20; Nehemiah 7:4-25

I was most impressed this morning with the character of Daniel:  Daniel 6:3-5, 10-12, 16, 22-23, 26-27  From these Scriptures, the Holy Spirit revealed following:
  1. Daniel faithfully sought and obeyed God prior to this event
  2. Daniel faithfully served the king to the best of his God-given ability (v. 3)
  3. Daniel was recognized by the king (v. 3)
  4. Daniel was scrutinized by those jealous of him (v. 4)
  5. Daniel's personal and social integrity was proven (v. 4-5)
  6. The evil forces will devise schemes and attack us because of our allegiance to God (v. 5)
  7. Daniel demonstrated highest level of integrity, consistent with his previous behavior and at the consequence of death (v. 10)
  8. Daniel did not hide his intimate relationship with God (v. 11)
  9. The king was exposed to the person of Yahweh because of Daniel's consistent integrity (v. 16)
  10. God is faithful, and He works miracles in the lives of those who seek and obey Him (v. 22-23)
  11. The king received a deeper revelation of the person of God because of Daniel's faith (v. 26-27)
  12. The nations will hear about Yahweh and trust in Him for salvation as a consequence of the testing of our faith (v. 26-27)
Heavenly Father, thank you for the testimony of Daniel's integrity.  Father, I want to be a man like Daniel - so totally focused on knowing you and honoring you that nothing in this world will pull me away from you.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Yahweh, my Rock and my Redeemer.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, from whom integrity comes.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Daniel 8, 5; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Daniel 9

If you ever wanted a scripture reference for a unicorn, here it is :)  Daniel 8:5

Seriously, I love the conclusion of Daniel's prayer in chapter 9:

17 "Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."

Heavenly Father, I echo the prayers of Daniel.  You are righteous and we are covered with shame. You are great and awesome; you keep your covenant of love because you are always faithful.  Please forgive us and restore us, not because we deserve it but according to your mercy.  I pray that you will use me for your sake, for the glory of your Name.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the name that is above every name.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

sovereignty and holiness

Daniel 4; 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34; Daniel 7

One of the Bible study principles that my cousin Neill taught me is to ask the question, "What does this Scripture reveal about the person of God?"

Daniel 4:34-35, 4:37

 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
       His dominion is an eternal dominion;
       his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

 35 All the peoples of the earth
       are regarded as nothing.
       He does as he pleases
       with the powers of heaven
       and the peoples of the earth.
       No one can hold back his hand
       or say to him: "What have you done?"

37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

From this passage, I am impressed with God's sovereignty.  To borrow from John Frame, this passage shows two of God's three "Lordship attributes" - 1) authority and 2) power.
1) God has the right to control the whole universe because He is the most Supreme being, and He is the Creator.
2) God has the ability to control the whole universe because He is the most Supreme being, and He is the Creator.

Daniel 7:9-10, 7:13-14

 9 "As I looked,
       "thrones were set in place,
       and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
       His clothing was as white as snow;
       the hair of his head was white like wool.
       His throne was flaming with fire,
       and its wheels were all ablaze.

 10 A river of fire was flowing,
       coming out from before him.
       Thousands upon thousands attended him;
       ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
       The court was seated,
       and the books were opened.

 13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

From this passage, the Sovereignty of God is reinforced, and I am impressed with God's holiness.  To continue with John Frame's third "Lordship attribute", this passage demonstrates God's 3) presence.
3) a) The perfect moral purity of God's holiness is expressed in the whiteness of His person.
    b) The complete justice of God's holiness is expressed in the fire of His presence.
    c) The relational satisfaction of God's holiness is expressed in the massive attendance of His prestige.

Heavenly Father, I confess that you are the Lord Most High.  You are the Sovereign Creator of the Universe, and you are the Lord of my life.  You have authored Faith in my heart through the work of Jesus Christ, and you are perfecting me through the presence of your Holy Spirit.  May I bring you glory and honor because you are deserving of everything I can give you.  Lord, I want to give you my life and my devotion.  I love you, Gracious One.  You are most Holy.  Please fill my life with your authority, power, and presence.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.