Friday, February 29, 2008

Day 60 & 61/90: 2 Sam 11-20, Jer 37-48, Eph 4-6, Phil 1-3

2/3 complete & counting - keep going strong!
Highlights from today's reading:
  • This part of 2 Samuel is well known, especially chapter 11, because it recounts the immorality of King David with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, and David's eventual decision to have Uriah killed. While there is much to learn about avoiding immorality from studying David's fall in chapter 11, I think the main point of the narrator in this section is to show the after-effects of David's sin. While we see God blessing David's reign before this moment, the story definitely shifts after chapter 11. David has disunity in his kingdom, sexual sin among his children, betrayal and murder in his household, and then eventually his own son Absalom comes after David to overthrow him as King. The point that the story is making is clear: while David's sins were forgiven by God, the consequences of his actions lingered through the rest of his life and reign. Overall, a powerful reminder of the impact of poor choices on those we lead.
  • This section of Jeremiah reminds us that it is not always beneficial to be the bearer of God's message - that preaching His message faithfully can lead to opposition and trials and suffering. Everyone thinks they want to hear the word of the Lord, but when it is given to them, they don't always want to obey what they have heard. This is true of our current culture as well - more excited to hear good things from God - that He is for us and wants to bless us - than to hear the hard things from God - repent and submit and obey and follow Him wholeheartedly. Both are true, but we tend to not want to hear the second half of the message.
  • Jeremiah 45-48 are not in chronological order from the previous chapters. Much of this book is a compilation of Jeremiah's messages throughout his prophetic ministry. Some are grouped chronologically, so topically. These last chapters are grouped as warnings against nations who serve other gods. The Lord is reminding them that though they may have seasons of prosperity, God will avenge His name in their midst. I think this has been confirmed historically as we see each of these national people uprooted by other countries.
  • Based on Paul's explanation of what God has done in our lives through Christ (our new identity in Him), Paul now exhorts believers to live in light of this new reality by...
    • being unified as a community of Christ-followers.
    • building each other up to maturity.
    • living a holy life that stands out from the ways of the world.
    • speaking truthfully and compassionately to each other.
    • by living a life of love.
    • living wisely toward each other and toward outsiders.
    • submitting to each other in marriage, wives through respect & husbands through love.
    • standing strong against the attacks of the enemy.
    • fearlessly and clearly sharing the gospel.
  • Paul's first three chapters of Philippians are so packed with stuff, it is hard to know what to write about. I am most challenged in this section by (1) Paul's view of death as gain (because of his strong faith in Christ) which allowed him to face all kinds of persecutions with endurance, (2) Paul's challenge to live out the humility modeled by Jesus Christ on the cross (so hard!), and (3) Paul's view of all his earthly accomplishments as crap compared to knowing Christ. Rock on --

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Day 59/90: 2 Samuel 6-10, Jer 31-36, Eph 1-3

Highlights from today's reading:
  • This section of 2 Samuel records the awesome victories that David experienced as he honored God in all that he did. David was sure to follow the Lord and seek the Lord. This section of David's reign reminds me of Paul's words in Romans - If God is for us, who can be against us? Even against overwhelming odds, David found victory time and again solely because the Lord was with Him. The question for us is relatively straight-forward, if not always easy: are we following God's lead?
  • Jeremiah 31-36 is a very hopeful part of Jeremiah. While God has consistently promised destruction and captivity for the people of Judah through the book, in these chapters, we see the heart of God to restore His people after they have repented from the hardheartedness. God promises to restore them to their land, to write a new covenant with them, to be their faithful God, and to establish the throne of David forever - all very Messianic language that points us to what God has done in Jesus.
  • Ephesians 1-3, a passage I have studied and preached often, reminds of three key aspects of NT theology:
    • Christ should always be highly exalted - He is the One who has accomplished our salvation and now leads His church.
    • God is sovereign and has worked out His plan from the beginning of time - including rescuing us from darkness and death through Jesus.
    • The church is united as one body because we all have access to God through the unique work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 58/90: 2 Sam 1-5, Jer 25-30, Gal 4-6

What struck me today:
  • The beginning of 2 Samuel reminds the reader of the differences between Saul and David as leaders, and it reminds the reader of the consequences of these decisions. Saul continued to kill and plant seeds of deception and back-stabbing in his kingdom, and all of those decisions came back to haunt him - after he has died and is off the scene, his children and generals continue what they had learned from Saul - kill or be killed. David, on the other hand, is careful to not destroy what God has raised up. He carefully takes time before every move to ask the Lord what he should do as king - very powerful.
  • The words of Jeremiah 25-30 are especially relevant to today's church because in these chapters he is giving messages from the Lord that nobody wants to hear (in fact, they threaten to kill him at one point) and he is rebuking false-prophets who promise prosperity and peace when that is not what the Lord is actually promising. We, too, live in a time in America, where people want to have their ears tickled - we all want to hear how great we are and how much God will do for us. But the truth is always more complicated - we need to repent of our sins and God will meet us in His grace - that is why Jeremiah continues to prophesy destruction from the Lord. God desires that His people repent, not that they live with false hope based on their assurance of their eternal favored status before the Lord. Very pressing in our current American culture...
  • How beautiful is the teaching of the book of Galatians - here Paul unpacks a believer's right relationship with the Law. The Law is good and right and it teaches us about the holy character of God and our own sinfulness - but the Law cannot save. The Law leads us to the One who can save. And the key for Christians today is not to go back to the Law and look at it as though it has the power to change us - only the Holy Spirit working on our hearts can change our lives.
  • One of my favorite verses in the NT: Galatians 6:14: "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day 57/90: 1 Sam 28-31, Jer 19-24, Gal 1-3

Highlights from today's reading:
  • I love that David waits to make sure that God is in the battle before he leads his men into it. I also love that David waited for the Lord to remove Saul from the throne without taking things into his own hands - what an amazing display of trust and confidence in the Lord.
  • I'm compelled by Jeremiah's example to preach the words of God regardless of the persecution and pain that it brings - he says that God's word is like a fire in his bones that must get out. I want my preaching to be like that - a burning message that I must get out.
  • Again, we see our consistent theme of the Scriptures in Jeremiah 22:16, where God says that defending the cause of the poor and the needy are what it means to know the Lord. Very convicting.
  • Quote of the day: Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." The book of Galatians - a beautiful exposition of the grace of God available freely through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Day 56/90: 1 Sam 24-27, Jer 13-18, 2 Cor 12-13

Highlights from today's reading:
  • I continue to be challenged by David's submission to authority as he waits for God to fulfill His promise that David would one day become king. I don't know how far you can push this principle, but it seems to me that good leaders always know how to be good followers before they become good leaders. Or said another way, one needs to be in submission to others as he attempts to lead others for Christ.
  • There is so much that can be written about these chapters in Jeremiah - in fact, back in June of 2005, I wrote a series of devotionals on the book of Jeremiah - 36 devotionals in all - that started on June 14th of 2005 - you can see them here. So, I don't feel the need to rehash all of that, but I was convicted again this evening that I have too low a view of the just wrath of our God - that I don't fear Him and walk humbly with Him as I should. I fear that too many days I consider God as much smaller and less grand than He really is.
  • Jeremiah 17:5-8 reminds us that the whole message of the Bible is consistent - God wants our trust to be in Him, not in ourselves or our circumstances. Faith, worship, obedience - this is what God desires from His people.
  • 2 Corinthians 12-13 contains Paul's discussion of how God's power was made perfect in his weakness - a tremendous theological statement about the jealousy of God for His own glory - that He will humble us as He needs to in order to bring Himself the greatest glory in our lives.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day 54 & 55: 1 Sam 16-25, Jer 1-12, 2 Cor 7-11

Highlights from the last two readings:
  • The story of God's call on David's life and his relationship to Saul is one of the most compelling in the Scriptures. Obviously, the fact that God chooses a boy of such lowly status to lead His nation is a wonderful encouragement to all of us who have so little to offer in our own strength. But even more than that, the fact that God tells David that he will one day be King, but that he will need to wait until God removes Saul from the throne before that can happen. I have so much to learn about this part of faith - waiting on God to deliver and provide, and finding the balance between that and passivity. I know that God has called and led me, but sometimes I struggle with taking control and not waiting on God to open the doors. I have a lot to learn from David in this - especially the stories where the opportunity to kill Saul opens up and David passes. The moral: not every open door is from the Lord, but may be a test to see if we really trust Him. Very difficult to discern, however.
  • Jeremiah 1-12 primarily addresses the issue of Judah's unfaithfulness and God's attempt to woo them back to Himself through promises of both blessings if they return and warnings of wrath if they don't. But the very fact that God is pursuing them in the midst of their infidelity to Him is a reminder of the graciousness of God. You can hear God's heart when you read words like "return to me, learn from the mistakes of Israel, discard your idols, repent." God's desire throughout the harshest judgments in the book is for the His people to return to faith in Him.
  • The scariest chapter in this section to me is chapter 7 because Jeremiah condemns the people for trusting in their religiosity and not trusting in their God. In other words, they made regular comments about the fact that God would never destroy their nation because they had the "city of God - Jerusalem. Their confidence was in the trappings of religion, not in the power of their God. When our faith moves beyond the person of God to religious acts, we are in trouble. And this is most clearly demonstrated when our religious systems are working, but our hearts and lives are far from God's ways.
  • One of my life verses: Jeremiah 9:23-24 - "This is what the Lord says: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the strong man boast in his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.
  • I love how joy and generosity are connected in 2 Corinthians 7, 8, & 9. The bottom-line: as God has been generous to us by giving His only Son, so we should respond by giving generously and joyfully to the Lord, not out of compulsion, but out of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Day 52 & 53: 1 Samuel 6-15, Isa 55-66, 2 Cor 1-6

Key Points:
  • I've been struck by three verses in 1 Samuel that are great memory verses to live by:
    • 1 Samuel 12:23-24: "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you." Wow - this could easily be a life-verse for ministers of the gospel - pray for your people, teach them what is right, lead them to fear God and follow Him and remember what God has done.
    • 1 Samuel 15:22: "To obey is better than sacrifice." - God desires our obedience more than He desires our offerings to Him.
    • 1 Samuel 16:7: "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - really from tomorrow's reading, but I was getting a little ahead - awesome reminder that God looks deeper than people can see, and a challenge to look beyond appearances.
  • I love that in the context of the Messianic promises of Isaiah which are so powerful, God promises that "all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." - Isaiah 52:10 - this is what we are seeing today - the gospel of Jesus Christ is going to every corner of the globe as God is raising up Kingdom missionaries to carry His Word. What a powerful reminder of what Isaiah promises back in 40:8 0 the word of our God stands forever.
  • From these wonderful Messianic prophecies, Isaiah begins to describe what this Kingdom future will look like: no more wrath from the hand of God, peace and blessing, justice and prosperity for all, guidance from God, healing and righteousness in all places for all people, joy in Christ, freedom for all. I'm actually preaching a sermon series later this year from Isaiah 60-66 where I will be spending time developing Isaiah's prophetic images of the coming kingdom - very powerful.
  • Another awesome Isaiah passage: Isaiah 64:8-9 - He is the Potter & we are the clay.
  • 2 Corinthians 1 reminds me that God does not waste any experience that we go through because he then uses our experience to comfort others as they go through hard times.
  • I love the movement from 2 Cor 4 to 2 Cor 5 when we go from learning that we are weak, broken vessels that God is using to spread the amazing message of His reconciliation with humanity through Christ.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day 51/90: 1 Sam 1-5, Isa 49-54, 1 Cor 15-16

Highlights from Day 51:
  • God cares about sin, and though we may think we can escape the consequences of sin for a season, they always catch up with us (thanks to Eli's boys for the reminder tonight).
  • God knows the future, every detail of it, and He knew that He would send His Son to suffer and die for the world from the very beginning.
  • The gospel is clear: Jesus died for us according to the Scriptures and was resurrected to give us life in His name. Do you believe it?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 50/90: Ruth 1-4, Isaiah 43-48, 1 Cor 13-14

Highlights from today's reading:
  • From Ruth: God uses woman just as powerfully as He uses men.
  • From Isaiah: There is no one like our God - no one who compares to His greatness.
  • From 1 Corinthians: Love is the key.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Day 49/90: Judges 20-21, Isa 37-42, 1 Cor 10-12

Reading Highlights:
  • The end of Judges is an awesome and terrible testimony to what theologians call the "passive" wrath of God - because God in his wrath simply allows men and women to go their own way and face the consequences of their actions - this is what we read in Judges. They are doing "what is right in their own eyes" as we all do from time to time and ignoring God, and He is allowing them to discover where their depravity leads. Another reminder of how dependent on grace we are every day.
  • While some of Isaiah has been repetitive up to this point, this section of Isaiah takes on a whole new flavor - Isaiah records the narrative history of his role in advising Hezekiah, the king of Judah, during the threat of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. This is a beautiful picture of why we should always trust God's ways above our own ways, why we should follow the words of God and not just what our eyes can see. When God tells us He will do it, we can trust Him wholeheartedly. And we all need to remember that God's hand is mighty to save - no matter what the odds against may be.
  • And what can you say about Isaiah 40? This may be some of the highest literature in the Bible when it comes to describing the glory and goodness of God.
  • More to come of the beginning theme of the servant in chapter 42 - this image will return several times through the end of Isaiah and contains some of his most amazing prophetic sections.
  • 1 Corinthians 10 took on new meaning tonight as I read it, especially the section about temptation. I have memorized 1 Corinthians 10:13 for years as a good reminder that God is faithful to provide a way out of temptation when we face it. What struck me tonight about reading it in context is how Paul is using the history of Israel as his theological foundation. In fact, many of the examples he uses, we have just read. In other words, what Paul is saying is that the temptations we face are similar to the temptations Israel faced as the chosen people of God, and that we can learn from them how to not stumble over temptation - wow.
  • Chapters 11 and 12 contain so much controversial stuff that there is no way to touch them here, but I was reminded during my reading that order and the spiritual gifts are all about showing love to other believers and building them up. This is the question we have to ask: "Am I using my gifts and my authority to build up others or simply to exalt myself?"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Day 48/90: Judges 16-19, Isa 31-36, 1 Cor 7-9

Today's highlights for me:
  • The end of Judges repeats the theme with an eerie cadence, "each man did what was right in his own eyes." And we see where that leads - to terrible idolatry and sexual deviancy and violent homicide. The Bible is nothing if not culturally relevant; amazing, how 3000 years later, people have not changed much. Our moral relativism leads us to all kinds of evil in the name of "tolerance."
  • Isaiah challenges Judah in these chapters (and us by association) to not place their trust in alliances with other nations, but to put their complete confidence in their covenant-keeping God. Of course, the challenge here is that trusting in God will always show itself in living according to God's ways - and this is what Isaiah shows in chapter 33 - "who can dwell with the consuming fire?" he asks, "He who walks righteously and speaks what is right." In other words, instead of looking for other nations to deliver them, Judah needs to start drawing close to God and trusting Him for their deliverance.
  • Isaiah 33:22 "the Lord is our king" contrasts with our reading in Judges tonight "there was no king in Israel." - question for us - who is our king? - who are we following?
  • Much to write about in Isaiah tonight - chapter 34 reveals the wrath of God in strikingly powerful imagery. This is not a part of God's character that we typically teach and preach on - but the Bible is full of prophetic words about the coming wrath of God. I did one message on this in the fall when I was preaching through the end of Revelation and I did two teachings on the topic of God's wrath to a youth camp a couple years ago, but I don't know that I have a fully-developed theology of His wrath.
  • Anybody ever taken a 1 Corinthians 7 fast from sexual intercourse with your spouse for a season to commit yourself to prayer? I actually heard about someone doing this last week - with amazing results.
  • I so connect with Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 - "woe is me if I don't preach the gospel." Amen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Day 47/90: Judges 11-15, Isa 25-30, 1 Cor 4-6

Highlights on today's reading:
  • Don't ever make foolish commitments to God, especially when your commitments to Him will lead you to disobey Him - crazy how we play games with God this way, "I'll do this if you do this..." like God is some kind of slot machine.
  • Samson is another leader that God blessed who was constantly over-confident in his own cleverness instead of confident in God - I hope I don't look too much like Samson, but that I learn to trust in God.
  • Isaiah praises God for all that He has done and all that He will do, but especially praises Him that He is a God who is worthy of our trust - that when we trust in Him, our trust is not misplaced. Again, I am reminded through today's reading that God desires our trust.
  • 1 Corinthians 5 & 6 seem very relevant today with the proliferation of sexual immorality in our culture - one chapter dealing with how we treat our brothers in Christ who refuse to repent and the next dealing with a personal philosophy of sexual immorality - don't combine the Spirit of Christ that lives in you with anything sexually immoral.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 46/90: Judges 6-10, Isa 19-24, 1 Cor 1-3

Highlights of today's reading:
  • This section of Judges describes the beginning of the downward spiral of Israel away from the ways of the Lord into their own idolatry. I am especially challenged by the fact that God tells the people that the reason they get in this boat is because they have failed to listen to Him. I hope I'm not repeating that sin of failing to listen to God - He knows best - His ways are true.
  • Gideon's story reminds me that even strong leaders can have weak faith and continue to test God even after they know God has said go.
  • The Isaiah reading reminds me that even in God's announcement of judgment, God is showing His mercy - He wants His people to repent and turn back to Him, to find healing and restoration. This again shows us the compassion of God for a hard-hearted people. I'm just not sure I want to be Isaiah in chapter 20 having to walk around barefoot and stripped down just to be an object lesson for God's coming judgment.
  • I walk away from the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians reminded that though the cross of Jesus Christ is foolishness to the world, it is what unifies all who make up the church. Our divisions are small because our unity is strong at the cross.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 45/90: Judges 1-5, Isa 13-18, Rom 13-16

We're half-way done (and heading downhill from here)...God, give us the grace to finish.
Highlights from today's reading:

  • Both Judges and Isaiah reminded me that the main issue of the Christian life is truly idolatry. Judges shows what happens when God's people don't listen to Him and they begin to worship the gods of those who live around them. Instead of swimming upstream, they begin to get carried away by the current of idolatry and from there, fall into all kinds of sin. These chapters of Isaiah are filled with God's promises to destroy many groups because they did not worship the true God but had begun to go their own way. The Scriptures point out that all sin follows from idolatry, from putting something else beside God in God's place - whether that is success or sex or a person or money or anything. When something besides God becomes our god, our depravity will suddenly flourish. This must why the Ten Commandments starts with the most basic commands of the spiritual life - there is no god above our God, and we should not bow down to any other god.
  • Reading Romans 13-16 tonight reminded me why Romans is one of the most powerful books in the NT, the one that spurred the Protestant Reformation. These last chapters are very practical, teaching how the righteous life of faith is worked out in community, in culture, and in the church. Very challenging stuff.
  • Quote of the day: Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 44/90: Josh 21-24, Isa 7-12, Rom 10-12

Highlights from today's reading:
  • Joshua's description of God's faithfulness to Israel is very encouraging and reminds us of an essential part of God's character - He is faithful to all His promises.
  • Joshua's charge to the nation at the end of his book to choose who they will serve is powerful and personally challenging, but also a reminder of how passing on a vibrant faith is so crucial. The generation that lived with Joshua was faithful to the call of God, but the next generation was not - as we will read in detail in the graphic book of Judges. This narrative section calls us make sure that every generation remembers the faithfulness of God to the previous generation and experiences the faithfulness of God for themselves.
  • I think the prophecies of Isaiah 7-11 & the later suffering servant prophecies are some of the best passages in the Bible to talk about its authority and divine origin. They are so specific and so perfectly descriptive of the life of Jesus - increases my faith in the only Son of God.
  • Isaiah 12 contains some wonderful praise songs to God - praising Him for great deeds and His wonderful love - I echo that song tonight.
  • Romans 10:14-15 reminds me that we need to be a "sending" church that is raising up leaders and pastors and Bible-teachers and evangelists to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world.
  • How awesome if Paul's collection of OT verses at the end of Romans 11 as he praises God for his amazing work of salvation that he has explained from Romans 1 to Romans 11.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day 43/90: Joshua 16-20, Isaiah 1-6, Romans 7-9

Highlights for me today:
  • The Joshua narrative at this points shares how the land was given to each tribe (as a testimony of God's faithfulness to His promises) and how they failed to drive out all the Canaanites that God had told them to drive out (which really sets up the narrative for the book of Judges very well). Partial obedience leads to partial blessing, huh?
  • The first six chapters of Isaiah are powerful because they show how Isaiah, as God's prophet, was called to proclaim the coming judgment of God on the nation (as an act of mercy on them), but had his perspective changed when he got face-to-face before God himself (chapter 6). It is definitely true that our judgment of others turns to personal repentance when we catch a glimpse of the fullness of God's glory.
  • I just need to soak in the truth of Romans 8 that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus - I guess sometimes I just struggle enough with believing that God really loves me since He really knows me. But Scripture says His love is secure in Christ.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Big News Monday...

Big News Today - We're having a girl! Who knew we could actually do that?

Day 41&42/90: Joshua 6-15, Song 1-8, & Romans 1-6
Key Points:
  • The message of Joshua so far: when God fights for you, nothing else matters. More than we need more gimmicks, we need the power of God on our side.
  • The song of songs is beautiful poetry and reminds me that I am being biblical when I enjoy my wife. It also reminds me of the powerful picture that romantic love is of the intimacy that God wants with His church.
  • The first six chapters of Romans is so theologically packed with truth, its hard to know what to comment on - the sinfulness of man, the faithfulness of God, the truthfulness of the Law, the righteousness that comes by faith, the peace that comes through Christ, or the new freedom from sin we have in Christ. What an awesome book.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Day 40/90: Joshua 1-5, Eccl. 7-12, Acts 25-28

Key Points from Reading:

  • I love the story of Joshua, how God raised up a new leader from the shadow of Moses to use to lead His people – just shows again that God can use anyone whose heart if fully turned toward God. And it reminds me of how faithful God is in every generation.
  • Joshua 1:8 is another life-verse for me because God tells Joshua to talk about and meditate on His law so that he will make sure to do all that God has commanded them to do. The priority for God is not just that we know His Word, but also that we put it into practice – we all need to refocus on this as the true measure of maturity, not knowledge of God’s Word.
  • Quote of the Day: Ecclesiastes 7:2: “for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” In a culture where we try to hide death from our sight, these are especially prudent words.
  • The summarizing statement of Ecclesiastes could be the summary statement for the whole Bible - much could be said, but the most important is to fear God and follow His ways - Amen.
  • Paul's story reminds me that God takes us where He wants us to go and He gives us the words to say so that the testimony of Jesus Christ can be heard by the most people possible. I'm praying that God will raise up the best men and women from our generation to take His name to the nations.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Three Days: Day 37,38,39/90

I've been out of internet contact for the last three days, but have a few minutes today to post the last three days of readings - hope you are still following along....

WED:
Day 37/90: Deut 21-25, Proverbs 25-28, Acts 16-18
Out on the farm for a couple days of being still before God and listening to His voice – I’m thankful for good friends who let me stay here and an awesome wife who allows me to take two days to work ahead on my sermon planning. She’s such a stud…

Key points from today’s reading:

  • This section of Deuteronomy makes me extra thankful today for the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, thankful that we live on this side of the incarnation and don’t have to keep all of these laws. I am sad, however, that we don’t obey Deuteronomy 24:5 that tells a newly married man to take a year away from work and war in order to bring happiness to the wife he’s married….awesome.
  • The Proverbs continue to hammer on a few key themes repeatedly – there are some rare jewels that are unrelated to these themes, but as we look for repetition in these passages, you have to notice: (1) the tongue is all kinds of problems for the foolish, (2) we need to listen well to those with wisdom when they rebuke us, (3) justice and care for the poor are very important to God, (4) the sluggard (read: slacker) makes an appearance in every generation and always finds himself without.
  • Proverbs of the day for me: Proverbs 27:21: we will be tested by praise. Very challenging that God tests us with the praise we receive to see what we will do with it – receive it humbly or boast in it.
  • So much that we could talk about in these chapters from Acts, but I’m especially impacted by the Bereans’ desire to search out the Scripture and test what they were being taught. I also love that Paul was willing to go anywhere (from a Jewish synagogue to an Athenian marketplace) to share the good news that God had sent His Christ.
  • Who doesn’t love the story of Paul & Silas in the Philippian jail? Just a great reminder that God is working through all our circumstances to bring glory to His name.

THUR:
Day 38/90: Deut 26-30, Proverbs 29-31, Acts 19-21

I had a hard time waking up this morning without any early morning meetings or kids bouncing on my chest – funny how your body gets into such a routine. I have, however, had some great time to be still before the Lord & listen – amazing how little I actually do this during the week.

Key points from today’s reading:

  • The Lord desires us to remember our deliverance (just like He desired the Israelites to remember their deliverance from Egypt) through our giving and sacrifices and our ceremonial observances (communion & baptism).
  • Obviously, God cares about our heart, not just our external obedience (Deut 26:16). I am convicted that sometimes I do the right things for the wrong reasons and need to have a heart change where obeying God’s ways will be the desire of my heart.
  • The blessings and curses of God for obedience or disobedience reminds us of the justice of God, which is sometimes hard to remember in this world where the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous suffer, but ultimately, those are the exceptions, not the rule – here is the rule: God blesses those who follow Him, but opposes those who ignore Him.
  • Powerful finish to the book of Proverbs – again reminded of God’s heart for the poor and needy – especially challenged by 29:7 that says the righteous care for the poor and 31:8 that challenges the king to speak up for the poor and needy.
  • I am reminded how blessed I am when reading through Proverbs 31 that I have a wife of noble character who fears God and walks closely with Him. She is not perfect, but she is a joy and blessing to me every day of my life. I rejoice in the great gift that God has given me in Barie.
  • I’m moved by the words of Paul to the elders at Ephesus before he left them for the last time and the love they obviously had for each other. I see this kind of fellowship among our elders, and it is a sweet thing.
  • I am sometimes saddened by the lack of adventure that I tend to see in current Christianity, especially after seeing the adventure and excitement of the early church in Acts. Those early believers were doing crazy things for the Kingdom of God, and yet, today, our faith movement seems so tame, so institutionalized. How do we get beyond that?

FRI:
Day 39/90: Deut 31-34, Ecclesiastes 1-6, Acts 22-24
Key Points from Reading:

  • Every new leader who takes on great responsibility needs to hear the words of Moses to Joshua as he succeeds Moses as leader of the nation: “be strong and courageous for the Lord will never leave you or forsake you.” Fear and anxiety can cripple a new leader, so putting on courage and trusting God’s leadership are very important.
  • “There is no go besides me” – Deuteronomy 32:39 – this is surely an amazing statement in the polytheistic culture of the ancient world. God is telling them the truth – don’t give your life to any other god, because they are not real & will not deliver you – a timely message to every generation.
  • Awesome tribute to Moses – even though he did not get to enter the promised land, he was the major figure in all of early Jewish faith – leading the people of God out of captivity, walking humbly with the Lord, and recording all that God told him to record. That all pastoral leaders would lead like Moses – know God intimately (face-to-face) and humbly submitting to the Lord’s direction.
  • I connect with the book of Ecclesiastes on so many levels because I share some of the cynicism that Solomon has about life. He describes most pursuits in life as meaningless, a “chasing after the win” – meaning that we go after it and when we think we have it, we realize that it slipped right through our hands. I especially connect with his view that enjoying our work and the good things in life is a great gift from God. I also am challenged by 4:4 where he says that all our achievements only flow from envy of our neighbors – I need to soak on that for a while.
  • Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 has been a life-passage for me for many years – that I should stand in awe of God and keep my words at a minimum when I approach Him – for a preacher, that can be very difficult, but so important.
  • I encouraged by Paul’s boldness with his testimony and his faith in Jesus Christ in all circumstances in front of all leaders – true courage & faith.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Day 36/90: Deut 16-20, Prov 19-24, Acts 13-15

Had a great pastor prayer retreat yesterday and today - exciting what God is doing to unite the pastors in Greater Austin. Watching the primary election returns tonight reminds of two emotions I always have at election time: (1) I love our democratic system and (2) my hope is not ultimately in any political leader.

Today's reading highlights:
  • I like how the Lord challenges the people to "not be afraid" as they go into the land and face enemies that they know they cannot fight on their own. This is another testimony to how God challenges us to trust Him over our own abilities.
  • I am challenged by the truth of Proverbs 20:6: a faithful man, who can find? We need more faithful men who are men of integrity that keep their word - great reminder.
  • I love that the community of believers in Antioch was a "sending" church - listening to God's voice and responding in obedience to send out those He is calling. We have a lot to learn here.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Day 35/90: Deut 11-15, Prov 13-18, Acts 10-12

Found enough wi-fi signal to get a post out tonight --

Key Points on Today's Read:
  • This section of Deuteronomy continues to hit the central message of the book: love and obey God - don't get distracted by the gods of the other nations and don't give away your heart to follow others leaders - follow God alone. I especially like 12:32 - do not add or take away from God's law. Interesting that God would comment that adding to His law is as dangerous as taking away from it. This completely meshes with Jesus' teaching in the NT against the Pharisees who added so much to God's law in order to make sure that they kept it. We need to make sure that we don't add to God's law in an attempt to make ourselves feel better about our own holiness.
  • Again have to take note of Deuteronomy 15:4 - there shouldn't be any poor among you. Amazing how when you read quickly through the OT you notice the heart of God for the least of those among us especially jump off the page.
  • A few huge proverbs that impacted me today:
    • 13.20: walk with the wise - we should take note of who we spend time listening to.
    • 13.24: if we love our kids, we will discipline them.
    • 14.31: care for the poor - are we seeing a theme here?
    • 16.9: we fool ourselves into thinking we're in complete control of our lives.
    • 17.9: I need to learn to not repeat an offense, but to let it go - ouch.
  • You have to love Peter's words in Acts 10.26: "I'm only a man myself." - so important for everyone to remember about their spiritual leaders.
  • I always enjoy the vitality and miracles of the early church. I also desire to have their great missionary zeal - to spread the message of Christ to others.

Inconsistent Blogging this Week --

I'll be inconsistent in my blogging this week on my Bible reading because I'm not sure how much access I'll have to the internet this week. I'll still be reading every day, but I'm not sure when I'll get to post about it - might be later this week. So, I'll be in touch with you soon --

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Day 34/90: Deut 6-10, Prov 7-12, Acts 7-9

What an awesome finish to the game tonight - we had a great time hanging out with some neighbors that we have become good friends with. I have to admit I was rooting for the Giants and was excited when they knocked the Patriots off their perch - great fourth quarter football. Had a great day today - church was exciting this morning as well. On to the reading --

Key Points on Today's reading:
  • Deuteronomy 6-10 may be one of the richest theological sections of the Law because it gives Moses' perspective on all that the nation of Israel had been through and what God was teaching them through it - this is a major section of the "do not forget" for the Israelites. The danger is so real of getting into a position of blessing and then forgetting what God has done - missing the main point that God is the one who has given us even the ability to work and earn and succeed in the first place. Chapter 6 is especially powerful as it relates to issues of parenting and passing on our faith to the next generation. I also love the end of chapter 10 where God challenges the people to fear Him, obey Him, and serve Him with all their hearts. We see in these verses the heart of God - that through the whole sacrificial system what God wanted (and now wants) the most was their hearts - that they would love Him supremely.
  • I've been talking a lot to my boys these days about wise choices versus foolish choices - exactly the foundation of what Solomon shares with his sons. I guess all parents desire that their kids would end up making wise choices on their own after learning clear biblical and moral guidelines for how to live at home. I pray for wisdom in my own life that my kids can see in action, and I pray that they would pick up the wisdom that God gives in his Word, not just worldly wisdom. The proverbs are clear: wisdom comes from God, and we begin to gain it by fearing Him. The fear of the Lord has fallen out of favor among American Christians because we prefer to think of God as our friend instead of our judge, but we need to regain a healthy sense of awe as we approach God so that we can grow in wisdom as well.
  • Proverb of the day: Proverbs 10:19: When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Amen.
  • I never gets old reading about the amazing conversion of Saul to Paul. I'm praying for those kind of conversions in our city and around the world - that those who are harshest in their opposition to the gospel would find themselves inexplicably drawn to Christ.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Day 33/90: Duet 1-5, Prov 1-6, Acts 4-6

Filed our federal income tax today with Turbo Tax online. Wasn't really that motivated to get it done until I discovered we might get a little something back this year - another bright spot of having three little ones in the house. Today's reading was a big chunk of text & had so much meat that I will have to fight hard the urge to write at length on any of these topics.w

Key Points on today's reading:
  • You have to love Deuteronomy - such an awesome theologically-packed summary of the history of the people of Israel up to that point and Moses' understanding of how the Law of God fit into that history. Chapter 4 contains so many powerful sections as it describes the character of God (He is a burning fire, a jealous God) and the reasons for God's work among the nation of Israel (in order for them and the nations to know that the Lord is God). Again, in this section, you begin to really understand the value of remembering God's work in your past. Moses (and God Himself) is concerned that the people of Israel will get into the land, into a place of blessing and prosperity, and that they will forget the Lord. And, of course, this is exactly what happens to Israel - they get blessed for obedience and then they fall away into all kids of idolatry. There's enough material in that one thought for a whole series of sermons, but we'll just leave it alone tonight.
  • I feel like after my 90-days through the Bible I might have to camp out in Proverbs for a while. My heart so connects with the them of this book - living with wisdom, not just any wisdom, but that which starts with fear of the Lord and comes from gaining understanding from God's commands. As a pastor, I see so many unwise choices in people's lives that bring so much heartache and pain. As a culture, we tend to have everything we need physically, but we definitely lack wisdom. Chapter 5 on watching out for the snare of adultery could again be a whole teaching series - so much truth packed into one chapter.
  • Quote of the day: Acts 4:13 -- "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." -- whatever schooling I get, I hope that people notice most of all that I've been with Jesus and that He has radically changed my life.
  • I love the dynamic of the early-church: the power of the Holy Spirit on display, the name of Jesus boldly being proclaimed, lives being regularly changed, and mission moving forward. I'm sad sometimes when I think about the many stale, dying churches in America today. O God, bring a fresh move of your Spirit that will shake the foundations of churches worldwide.



Friday, February 01, 2008

Day 32/90: Num 34-36, Ps 145-150, Acts 1-3

If you're just joining us, we're about 1/3 the way through reading through the Bible in 90 days. You can see the reading plan I'm following here if you want to join with us. Finishing Numbers & Psalms today - moving quickly. Saw this crazy note today on WP about the NFL not letting churches show the Super-Bowl: I guess file that under "not making enough money."

Key Points on today's read:
  • Numbers 35 really drives home the idea that God values life because He places such harsh penalties on those who take life in any form. Obviously, God makes a difference on how a life is taken and why it is taken, but the overriding point is powerful, especially in a culture and context when human life was very disposable and tribal warfare was common.
  • The end of Psalms takes our mind back to where it should be focused: praising God for His goodness of character, His greatness in power, and His mercy and love on our behalf. I love the joy, the passion, the singing, and the dancing that ends the psalms - reminder why music is the heartbeat of the soul and helps us express the deepest religious affections of our hearts.
  • How exciting to start the book of Acts, a very relevant section of Scripture for what we are doing right now as we lead a missionary effort in the city of Round Rock. I love the emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit (which we are still dependent on today) and the power of the name of Jesus Christ to transform lives both physically and spiritually.