Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 88/90: Neh 8-13, Zech 5-9, Rev 11-14

Today's reading highlights:
  • As I said yesterday, the book of Nehemiah is a master's degree in spiritual leadership. The end of the book takes us through the reading of God's law by Ezra (which contains amazing insight into teaching and preaching) to the prayers of the people of Israel in repentance to the dedication of the completed construction of the wall. In all this, I think the prayer of the Israelites in chapter 9 is amazing...it recognizes the truths that I have seen throughout the OT - the graciousness and mercy of God and the hardheartedness of his people. Reading through Revelation 1-3 two days ago reminds me that this has not changed much even though we have the gospel and the Spirit in a new way today - God is still gracious and His people are still slow to respond to Him. I appreciate the transparency and authenticity of Nehemiah 9 - expressing the truth about their condition and their God. We need more of that.
  • Quote of the day: Zechariah 7:8: "And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 'This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.''"
  • This section of Zechariah combines the two elements that all of the prophets wrote about: the future day of the Lord and the coming King. The two were obvious connected in their minds as they waited for the Lord to bring justice and peace to his people and establish his righteousness on the earth. Causes me to stop and meditate on how they lived in anticipation of that day. We, of course, have seen the fulfillment of part of these prophecies - the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, has come. But, we too live in anticipation of that great and awesome day of the Lord. It is surely coming.
  • These great chapters in the book of Revelation include powerful images of the end-times - the faithful witnesses, the evil one, the beast, and all those who are unfaithful to Christ. In all, the teaching is clear: Jesus Christ, the Risen Lamb, will conquer all those who have opposed Him and gone their own way. He will one day bring all His people to Himself and establish His kingdom on the earth. I should meditate on this truth more often.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 87/90: Neh 1-7, Zech 1-4, Rev 6-10

Today's reading highlights:
  • So much to learn from Nehemiah's example of faithful, God-honoring leadership and shepherding of people to accomplish a vision. I was especially challenged tonight by his courage in the face of opposition (from without and within) and his commitment to prayer. I need to consistently grow in my commitment to prayer - I know that God continues to draw me into a deeper fellowship with Him. I keep hearing Him say that as the responsibilities get greater, my reliance on Him must get deeper.
  • Zechariah is full of apocalyptic language and prophetic pronouncement, most explicitly about the Day of the Lord and the coming Messiah (called the Branch). God is promising His people that just as surely as judgment and just wrath are coming to those who deny Him, so also mercy and grace are coming in His chosen servant. Another powerful book that points toward the hope in Christ.
  • Revelation 6-10 tonight reminded me that though the grace of our Lord is amazing and powerful, His wrath and anger over sin are real. I read these passages and am humbled by His holiness and His greatness. I feel like Isaiah in chapter 6 as he catches a glimpse of the Lord's glory - woe is me.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 86/90: Ezra 6-10, Zeph 1-3, Haggai 1-2, Rev 1-5

Today's reading highlights:
  • Ezra is recorded in his book as a man who knew the Law of God, taught it and observed all that it said. I guess your bio could be worse, huh? A good reminder from Ezra today that I need to be genuinely moved by the sin in the lives of the people that I lead. Obviously, I need to show grace as God has shown grace, but I also need to be broken over what breaks God's heart. Am I? Depends on the day, sometimes...
  • I am moved by Zephaniah's proclamation of the great and terrible day of the Lord coming soon. I really hear his words when he says that people say in their hearts, "God will never do anything" and they become complacent and ignore the obvious signs. I pray that I don't become callous to the reality of Jesus' return - it is surely coming soon.
  • The book of Haggai reminded me of the truth we talked about this morning at our association elder-meeting: our checkbook reflects our priorities. Haggai tells the people that their expenditures (all on their own house and not on God's house) reflects the devotion of their hearts - all about themselves and little about God. This is a challenging critique for the church today - a recent survey showed that while most evangelicals believe that God desires at least ten percent of their income, few evangelicals actually give that amount.
  • The book of Revelation is one of my favorites because it gives us such a vivid image of the person and glory of Jesus Christ. I like the letters to the churches in 1-3 (and am thinking about preaching a series on those letters some day soon), but I am especially compelled by the image of the throne, the One who sits on the throne, and the Lamb in chapters 4 & 5. I always get chills when I read the praise going to Him on the throne from the court of heaven and the elders. Jesus is worthy to receive praise from all peoples in all nations at all times. Jesus is worth our every sacrifice and commitment.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 85/90: Ezra 1-5, Nahum 1-3, Habakkuk 1-3, 2&3 John, Jude

Today's reading highlights:
  • The beginning of the book of Ezra reminded me tonight that everything the Lord calls us to do will eventually face opposition from those who do not want us to succeed. This is extremely important to remember, because many times people believe that if the Lord leads them into something that they will not face any opposition. This then leads us to doubt God’s calling when we face any kind of obstacle in our way. Ezra’s narrative is a good reminder: we have to persevere in the face of opposition, not give up in order to please our Lord.
  • Nahum & Habakkuk continue the prophetic message that all the Minor Prophets are proclaiming. God is great and awesome and just, and He will most certainly judge the sins of His people unless they repent. Habakkuk asks an interesting question of the Lord, wanting to know how He could use such a pagan people as Babylon to judge His people. God’s response is twofold: one, I’m God and do whatever I decide to do, and two, just because I use a group of people to accomplish my will does not mean that I approve of what that group does; in fact, I will one day judge them for their own sin. I still am moved by the compassion of God to continue to send His prophets to the peoples of Judah and Israel over and over again. He really did (and does) desire for His people to repent and turn to Him.
  • Something different grabbed my eye in 2&3 John – John’s desire to see his correspondents face-to-face in order to talk with them about important theological ideas. I don’t know about you, but I wonder if we have lost the art of face-to-face communication in our digital age. Seems more people are open to emailing, texting, blogging, and networking than they are in actually spending time together in the same room.
  • Jude reminded me tonight of a great responsibility of spiritual leaders: to guard the flock from those who would want to lead them astray theologically. I see this coming from culture, so-called “Christian” media, and from within our congregations. Bad theology from those who are new to the faith is to be expected, but errant teaching from those who should know better needs to be corrected for the sake of the body. Good reminder to teach theologically and to teach theology to those in leadership.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 84/90: 2 Chron 31-36, Micah 5-7, 1 John 4-5

Today's reading highlights:
  • The end of 2 Chronicles completes the amazing stories of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, two of the godly kings who served in Judah before the nation was sent into exile. They responded to the commands of the Lord and used their platform to exert influence for God's kingdom as they led their people to follow God and obey His commandments. Another reminder that leadership is so important in the direction that people go. I was especially moved by reading how God was gracious to those kings who would humble themselves and repent even when they had not been following Him consistently. Our God is gracious all the time, wanting His people to turn to Him and wanting to show them compassion and mercy.
  • The end of Micah contains great Messianic prophecies that look toward the future hope of the nation of Israel. This section includes the passage about the Messiah coming from Bethlehem and about how he will be the hope of the nation. But the most awesome language is at the end of Micah 7 where the prophet reminds the reader, "who is a God like you, who delights to show mercy." This reinforces what I said above in 2 Chronicles - we have an awesome, gracious God.
  • 1 John reminds me that the process of spiritual development is straight-forward: believe in Jesus, love God and people, and obey Jesus' teachings. I don't know why we make it so much more complicated than that. Good reminder tonight to love people and be gracious to them as God has been gracious to us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 83/90: 2 Chron 25-30, Micah 1-4, 1 John 1-3

Today's reading highlights:
  • Uzziah's story in 2 Chron 26 is a powerful reminder of how success can be our downfall. This story is set in complete opposition to Jehosaphat's story we looked at last night. Jehosaphat was faced with overwhelming circumstances (big enemy army) and decided to throw himself on the mercy of God and God delivered. Uzziah begins to have many successes, but 26:16 says of him, "after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God..." This is very instructive to me now in a time of real blessing in my ministry - will I stay humbly dependent on the Lord?
  • How can you not just love Hezekiah and his amazing leadership of Judah recorded in 29 & 30? He does everything right as the leader of his people, encouraging and equipping them to worship the Lord again. I especially love how he led the people to celebrate Passover for the first time in a long time. Can you believe God's people had gone so long without celebrate their great history of deliverance from Egypt? So easy to forget the great things God has done, huh?
  • After reading Kings and Chronicles and understanding again how much war was a part of the national life of these countries in the Ancient Near-East, Micah's words about peace between countries in chapter 4 take on a whole new meaning. This was (and is) an amazing promise - the day is coming when the Lord will execute His justice and reign on the earth and all war and conflict will cease. I'm looking forward to that day...
  • I love the eye-witness nature of John's testimony - its like he is saying, "I was there - I saw the whole thing, you can trust my testimony about the life and person and teachings of Jesus."
  • 1 John 2:15-17 is one of my favorite passages because it gives an answer to one of the "why" questions - I should pursue Christ above the pleasures of this world, because they are temporary, but the beauty of Christ is eternal.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 82/90: 2 Chron 19-24, Obadiah, Jonah 1-4, 2 Pet 1-3

Today's reading highlights:
  • I love the words of King Jehoshaphat in 20:12 when he is confronted with overwhelming odds in front of him militarily - he says, "we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." Wow - that is awesome. I feel that way so much of the time. I feel like I am working way over my head every day, and that what I need to work on most is keeping my eyes on God alone - He is the one who is going to lead us.
  • The story of Joash the king of Judah and Jehoiada his chief priest (in chapter 24) is also fascinating - it is a good reminder that a faithful man of God can really influence leaders in his culture to consider the ways of God.
  • Both Obadiah and Jonah remind us that God does not enjoy the destruction of the wicked, but rather desires that they repent and turn to Him in faith and obedience. The OT gets such a bad-wrap as portraying God as vengeful and wrathful, but that depiction misses the point that God's proclamation of His wrath and judgment are in themselves incredibly merciful acts. I love how Obadiah challenges the people not to rejoice when God's judgment comes on others, but to observe and learn humbly. Of course, Jonah's story is our story - wanting to be used by God, but only on our terms and in our time-table. God's desire is that His messengers go where he sends them and say what he tells them.
  • 2 Peter is a great reminder to guard ourselves against false-teachers and those who excuse immorality in the name of spirituality.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 81/90: 2 Chron 13-18, Amos 7-9, 1 Peter 4-5

Today's reading highlights:
  • Two thoughts on this part of 2 Chronicles...
    • One, a great reminder that these people knew war as a way of life. Of course, our global community is not much different as there is a constant struggle to maintain power and authority over others. This makes Jesus' coming as the "prince of peace" even more meaningful - peace not just internally with God, but peace even between nations.
    • Two, faithfulness in one part of your life to the Lord and his calling does not mean that you will be faithful forever. We never get to the point where we stop needing God's help and other people to spur us on toward love and good deeds. Case in point - Asa in 2 Chronicles 16 - followed God so well for so long and yet fumbled at the end. Ouch.
  • Money quote: 2 Chronicles 16:9 -- "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."
  • Amos 7 is a good reminder that there will always be those who want you to speak for God and those who want you to shut up and sit down. We must obey God.
  • The end of Amos reminds me of Thomas Jefferson's words that he feared for America because he knew that God was just and that his justice would not terry forever.
  • Above all, love each other deeply. - well said Peter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 80/90: 2 Chron 7-12, Amos 4-6, 1 Peter 1-3

Today's reading highlights...
  • In the reading tonight on 2 Chronicles, I was touched again by the story of King Rehoboam looking for council about how to lead his people. The leaders of Israel had come and asked for relief from the King - that he would not treat them like his father did. Rehoboam consults the elders in the city and they tell him to show mercy in his leadership, and then he consults his young friends and they tell him to be harder then his father. Of course, he sides with his young assistants and the thing blows up in his face and splits the kingdom. I know there are several lessons in this story, but the one that stands out to me is those of us who are young leaders need to take the counsel of our older mentors very seriously.
  • The words of Amos cut to the heart of God's concern with how His people had responded to their election and His law. First, they had become comfortable in their status and stopped "seeking God," instead deciding that because they were God's people it didn't matter how they lived. Second, they got caught up in their ritual obedience and forgot that God's greatest desire was always for their love and devotion, not their tradition. More later on God's direction to them to get their hearts right.
  • So many awesome teachings in 1 Peter 1-3, but most of all tonight I'm reminded that I should show that "inexpressible joy" that comes from knowing and following Jesus - that whatever happens, I know in whom I have believed and I know that He is able to complete what He has promised to do. Do I have that deep-joy and does it show?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 79/90: 2 Chron 1-6, Amos 1-3, James 4-5

Today's reading highlights:
  • Really enjoyed reading the extra detail provided in 2 Chron 1-6 about the life and leadership of King Solomon. I was challenged by his comments about building a temple that reflected the greatness of His God. I also like how he prayed during the dedication of the temple, asking God to answer prayer from all peoples so that they would know that He is God - that feels like a great prayer that I can pray over our city.
  • Amos' words cut to the heart because he takes the foreign nations to task first, and you can almost feel the people of Israel rejoicing in his words. But then he turns to Israel and shares God's words of judgment on his own people. He takes the people of Israel to task for...
    • being more concerned with profit than righteousness (3:6)
    • being more concerned with profit than the poor (3:6)
    • oppressing the poor by denying them justice (3:7)
    • sexual immorality (3:7)
    • mixing their religious practices with personal pursuits (3:8)
    • ignoring their commitments to God (3:12)
    • silencing the messages from God (3:12)
  • ...sounds like many things He would take us to task for today. Reminder to check our hearts and make sure they line up with His heart.
  • James 4 & 5 have so many practical instructions that I need to work on, but the ones that always challenge me personally are his call to humility and his high view of the work of prayer. I need more of both in my life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 78/90: 1 Chron 26-29, Joel 1-3, James 1-3

Today's Highlights:
  • Two thoughts hit me while reading the end of 1 Chronicles tonight: organization and delegation. Both were necessary then to get things done and both are necessary now for us to lead God's people. I need to spend more time thinking about our church's organization and my own ability to delegate.
  • David's response to God in 29:14-17 is very amazing - he exalts the Lord for the people's generosity, them praises God because He is the true source all of good things...love it. I'm also personally challenged by the fact that God gave David a vision that would be accomplished by his son, Solomon. Wonder how many times God gives us vision for what will only be accomplished by those who come after us?
  • The book of Joel repeats many of the themes of the OT: God will bring judgment on his people and other nations for their wicked idolatry, but he announces his plan with the hope that His people will "return to him with all their hearts." I love the phrase in 2:13 - "Rend your heart and not your garments." - another sign that God ultimately cares about the hearts of his people over their outward behavior. This again demonstrates to me that Jesus is simply expounding on an OT theme rather than reversing the teaching of the OT.
  • Verse of the day: Joel 2:32: "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." - Paul's thoughts in Romans 10:13 are his understanding of how Jesus fulfills this OT passage - awesome.
  • So many things we can learn from James 1-3 about trials and applying God's word and showing our faith through our actions and keeping our tongue in check. But today, what struck me first was James' concern that we take care of the poor among us and respect them well. (2:1-9) Another reminder for me about the inverted nature of God's kingdom.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 77/90: 1 Chron 21-25, Hosea 12-14, Heb 11-13

Today's Highlights:
  • This part of Chronicles fills in some of the details in the reign of King David and helps us understand some of the narrative of the transition between David and his son, Solomon. I was especially challenged by 21:24 where David decides that he will not sacrifice anything to the Lord that does not cost him something. This is a thought to dwell on - are we quick to give cheap things to God and keep the best things for ourselves?
  • The call from the end of Hosea is to remember - God desires love and justice from His people, not just outward sacrifice - this sounds a ton like Jesus in the NT - check your heart, not just your actions. The other call from God in Hosea is to return to Him, to repent and be delivered. God's wrath is real and just, but His mercy is available to all those who turn to Him.
  • I was encouraged tonight by Hebrews 11 to increase my faith, to walk in such a way that demonstrates that Jesus Christ alone is the source of my hope. Walking by faith when many resources are available is challenging and involves taking big risks for the Lord.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Day 76/90: 1 Chron 16-20, Hosea 9-11, Heb 8-10

My Baylor Bears got a NCAA tournie bid! I better celebrate now before it's all over.
Today's reading highlights:
  • 1 Chronicles picks up some at this point by recounting the life of King David in much more detail - telling us wonderful details about his intimacy with God and about his victories as King of Israel. I love the psalm of praise in 1 Chronicles 16 - it reminds me to spend time writing out my praise to God. I also really like and am challenged by David's response to God in chapter 17 - he is so humble in asking what he has done to deserve the awesome blessings of God on his life. I feel this way so many days of the week.
  • The words of Hosea continue to move me as they describe the compassionate response of God to His people even though they have forgot His wonderful deeds on their behalf and have run hard after other gods. I can't imagine the sorrow this causes God, but his gentleness is surprising to me - not one of attributes we normally talk about, but is obviously present in these chapters. God is awesome and causes the nations to tremble, yet pursue his people with a lover's touch - wild stuff.
  • So much great theology in Hebrews 8-10, showing in great detail how the Old Testament sacrificial system was a "shadow" of the realities in heaven - showing how Jesus' once-for-all death and his shed blood covered the people of faith so that their sins could be atoned for and their relationship with God restored. A key reminder about the importance of understanding the OT in interpreting the NT.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Day 75/90: 1 Chron 11-15, Hosea 5-8, Heb 5-7

Today's Reading Highlights:
  • Two quick thoughts on 1 Chronicles today: one, great leaders are always surrounded by outstanding people - this is true in David's life (with all the mighty men and prophets, etc.) and is true in every leader's life today; two, the people of Israel knew how to shout and celebrate their God - we seem to have lost some of the passion they contained.
  • Hosea contains some powerful language about how the Lord desires to bind up the wounds of His people and heal them of all the damage they have experienced. But His people continue to mistake what He wants (and this is very helpful for me today as a pastor). God does not want sacrifice (6:6) or empty words (8:2), He wants faithful devotion and passionate worship. God wants the fidelity of his people just like Hosea wanted the fidelity of His bride.
  • The middle of Hebrews begin teaching some of the "meat of the Word" as chapter 5 describes it, especially the truth that Jesus came as our High Priest, but not as one who makes regular sacrifices for us, but as the One who made the once-for-all sacrifice of Himself. What an awesome Savior that we serve.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Day 74/90: 1 Chron 6-10, Hosea 1-4, Hebrews 1-4

Thoughts on today's reading:
  • 1 Chronicles feels a lot like book-keeping at this point, recording for the people of Israel for all time their own lineage so that they know their connection to Adam & Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. It seems especially important to them to record the lineage of their kings so that every generation will know where the kings of Israel came from and the ways in which they walked. And like chapter 10 records, not so good for Saul.
  • Hosea's prophetic call is one of the most fascinating ones in Scripture - God commands him to marry a prostitute that he knows will be unfaithful in order to teach the prophet what God experiences when his people leave him for other gods. What a powerful, gut-wrenching illustration. I love the idea presented in these chapters that God is the husband to His people, the faithful lover who pursues his bride with passion and determination. A different way to think about the loving pursuit of our God after us...
  • The author of Hebrews teaches us an awe-inspiring high-view of Jesus Christ. Jesus, Hebrews tells us, is greater than all the angels in heaven, greater than all the holy men and women who follow God, greater than Moses, the greatest prophet in the history of Israel. Jesus is our Great High Priest, our Savior, our God - Jesus is the one we trust and believe in. Awesome.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Day 73/90: 1 Chron 1-5, Dan 7-12, Philemon

Today's reading highlights:
  • 1 Chronicles 1-5 mainly contains the genealogies of the lines of Israel, but it does contain some fascinating notes that were obviously significant to the community of the Jewish faithful. One is in 2:3 where the Bible describes Er as an evil son of Judah that God put to death - wow. Another well known one now is Jabez' prayer in 4:9-10, and God granted his request. The final interesting one to me is found in 5:20 where the Reubenites are commended for trusting in God during their battle - same theme everywhere in Scripture, isn't it?
  • The end of Daniel is again packed with great theological ideas - the reign of God (as Ancient of Days), the work of the Son of Man in establishing His kingdom, and great prophetic themes on the eschaton - the last days. I love that the Word of God is so specific about future prophecies - coming kings and kingdoms and how they will be victorious for a season, then be overthrown by another kingdom - all except the kingdom of God and His Anointed One. Daniel's prophecy at the end of chapter 9 is one that gives me great confidence in the Scriptures and points me to the Messiah as the true King of the world.
  • I love the thought in Philemon 6 - that being active in sharing our faith helps us have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ - reminder to be more bold with the gospel.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Day 71&72/90: 2 Kings 16-25, Ez 43-48, Dan 1-6, 2 Tim 3-4, Titus

Today's reading highlights:
  • The end of 2 Kings is gut-wrenching because you have been with the nations of Israel and Judah for so long and you see God bring judgment on both as they go into exile. After God had repeated warned them about the consequences of their idolatry and sinful behavior, the kings still choose to ignore Him and go their own way. And they reap the fruit of the seed they had sown.
  • In the midst of this narrative, two wonderful kings come on the seen - Hezekiah (who walked with God wholeheartedly and trusted Him in the midst of overwhelming odds) and Josiah (who responded admirably when the book of the Law was discovered in the temple and choose to obey the commands of God). The sad part, however, is that Hezekiah and Josiah are the exception to the rule, not the rule. So many kings before and after them ignored the ways of God and went their own way. Even the fact that 2 Kings records that Josiah was the first leader to host a Passover celebration since the time of the judges reminds you how far the nation of Judah had drifted away from the Lord. They no longer worshiped Him as the One true God and they no longer remembered the wonderful things He had done in their past. The great sin of this time (which always threatens us who follow the Lord): syncretism - adding cultural idolatry to their worship of Yahweh - covering all their basis spiritually and ending up with something that doesn't honor God for what He is worth.
  • Random question when thinking about Hezekiah and Josiah; both great kings that followed after God, but why did their sons not follow their example?
  • The end of Ezekiel gives explicit directions on how the new temple will look and feel and be designed. The main point, however, is captured in chapter 43 - the glory of the Lord will return to His people. This is a major promise of hope for God's people since they had seen the temple destroyed back at the end of 2 Kings (which we just read today) and were waiting for God's presence to return to His people. He will be their God and they will be His people. Hope is a powerful thing --
  • There is so much that could be said about the first 6 chapters of Daniel because it includes so many wonderful stories, but the main thing that stands out to me today is that Daniel and his friends are the perfect examples of godly missionaries - living in a culture and working in that culture but standing apart from the culture while in it. I love their integrity, their courage, their passion for Yahweh, and their commitment to serve where they are planted. We could learn a lot about being missionaries in our culture by studying their lives. I also love the fact that God turns the heart of kinds like the waters in the river - any direction he likes. He is also able to bring Himself glory from all nations, tongues, and leaders.
  • Personal challenge from Paul to Timothy - "I have finished the race." So many do not make it to the end of their ministry, either because of their own depravity or because of the attacks of the enemy. But either way, I am challenged by Paul to endure in ministry and to keep a pace that is sustainable.
  • I love the book of Titus just as I do 1 & 2 Timothy - very pastoral and helpful in its instructions. Struck tonight by Paul's detailed instructions on how to teach older men and women and younger men and women. Need to think more about how that impacts my ministry as a young man.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day 70/90: 2 Kings 11-15, Ez 37-42, 2 Tim 1-2

Today's reading highlights:
  • It is interesting in the narrative of these kings that there are so many who do "evil in the sight of the Lord," but it is also fascinating that even those who did what was "right in the sight of the Lord" did not tear down the high places where the other gods were worshiped. In other words, they had the courage to follow after God but not to lead their people to follow their example. This begs the question - am I taking people where I'm going?
  • Ezekiel 37 is one of those prophetic passages that makes you excited to study the prophets - the valley of dry bones. God promises in vivid detail how He is going to restore the health of His people - giving them life instead of death, bringing them back to their land, and restoring their relationship with Him. It is a great prophecy of hope and restoration.
  • Ezekiel 40-42 contain directions for the rebuilding of the temple. There is much debate about how to interpret this passage - will Israel one day in the future build this temple or is God just giving them another object lesson on His faithfulness, saying that His Spirit will one day dwell again with His people? There is not consensus, but the point is the same either way - God is faithful to His people and faithful to His promises.
  • Again, so much to live out 2 Timothy from the teachings of Paul - especially challenged to not have anything to do with foolish or stupid arguments, but to be kind to everyone. Preach it, Paul.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Day 69/70: 2 Kings 6-10, Ez 31-36, 1 Tim 4-6

Today's reading highlights:
  • This part of 2 Kings is memorable because it continues the repetition of bad kings that descended from Solomon's reign and because it contains the death of Jezebel, the most ruthless of women in the Bible. The biggest reminder to me: everyone dies and meets their Maker. Regardless of who we are in this life, we are all equal at the end of life.
  • Several key ideas in Ezekiel that continue here - one, that God works for the glory of His own name among the nations, and that despite our foolishness, God will bring Himself glory from all corners of the earth - two, that the prophet of God has a specific role before the Lord to be the watchman on the wall, declaring God's message to the people regardless of their response - three, that God will hold his leaders responsible for the direction they lead His people. wow - that'll preach.
  • Money quote of the day: "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice." Ez 33:31-32
  • The end of 1 Timothy is so practical in my day-to-day life. I really need to spend more time in 1 & 2 Timothy because here Paul is talking to his young brother in the ministry and giving him words of wisdom on how to do it right. Always important for me: 1 Tim 4:12 - not letting anyone look down on my youth, but setting an example in all I do - tough challenge.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Day 68/90: 2 Kings 1-5, Ez 25-30, 1 Tim 1-3

Preached a 45-minute one today on the Beatitudes - probably a little too long, but a challenge to honestly wrestle with all 10 verses in one sermon. I'm interested to hear the feedback - I went a very different angle with the interpretation of the passage.

Today's reading highlights:
  • The first five chapters of 2 Kings are full of miraculous stories about how God worked powerfully through Elijah and then Elisha. They obviously walked closely with the Lord as He moved mightily through their ministry. Anyone else think the passage in 2 Kings 2:23-25 is crazy where the bears come out and kill the youth who are mocking Elisha?
  • These chapters in Ezekiel are the prophet's words of judgment against the nations that surround Israel - showing that God is not just angry with His own people, but also with all the nations who worship other gods and turn away from God's moral law. I was especially challenge by Ezekiel 28:1-10 where God says that He is bringing judgment on the king of Tyre because he lives as though he is god. I wonder how many times I fall into that thinking. Again, the main theme of Ezekiel is God's heart that all nations would know that He is the Lord - He moves to bring Himself glory among all peoples. I need to be constantly reminded of that - He moves to honor His name alone.
  • There is so much that could be said from 1 Timothy - so relevant and so powerful. I especially connect with Paul's view of himself as the worst of sinners, but saved to show God's wonderful grace. I also need to spend time just meditating on 2:3 which describes God's heart for all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Great truths --

Friday, March 07, 2008

Day 66&67/90: 1 Kings 15-22, Ez 13-24, 1 Thess 4 - 2 Thess 3

Two days' reading - busy day yesterday with finishing sermon prep for this Sunday on the beatitudes and doing a wedding last night. Here's the highlights:
  • This last section of 1 Kings tells the stories of several kings of Israel and Judah (now divided countries) and how they related to the prophets of God and how they responded to the commands of God. The most common phrase that is repeated in each section is "in the eyes of the Lord" - in other words, the historical narrative of 1 Kings is unlike any other historical writings in how they evaluate kings. The kings are not evaluated on their military prowess or their economic development. They are evaluated on whether or not they did what was right in the eyes of God. Did they fear the Lord above all and follow His ways or did they reject His ways, go their own way, and serve the gods of the surrounding nations? This is the determining question related to their success. And the sobering conclusion of the writer of 1 Kings is that most of the kings of Israel and Judah did not follow God - those who did were the exception, not the rule. This is a reminder to us - are we willing to follow God and His lead (made explicitly clear to these kings through the prophets and explicitly clear to us through His word) or will we decide to go our own way? The passionate cry of Scripture - follow God and He will be with you on your way. Do your own thing, follow others gods, and your path will most certainly involve potholes and detours.
  • Money quote from Ezekiel tonight: 18:32 - "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!"
  • Through the prophet Ezekiel, God addresses so many issues that are going on among his people - there are false prophets who confuse the people with messages that are not from God, there are idolaters who worship gods other than Yahweh, and there are those who simply put their trust in the privileged status they have enjoyed as a nation. In all these, God's heart is for his people to repent. In that, I take this section to be one of great hope. In all the terrible things that the nation of Israel has done in disobedience to God - from idolatry to temple prostitution to child-sacrifices, God is still patient with them, wanting them to return to Him, to repent from their ways. God is the loving husband who is waiting for his wayward wife to return home, whose love is deep and wide and patient. We serve an awesome God, don't we?
  • I am challenged by how God calls Ezekiel to confront the people of Israel with their sin - he has a massive undertaking as God's prophet - to share God's heart with the people while also reminding them of the awesome wrath of their holy, just God. He also is called by God to remind the people that God acts on behalf of His name (Ezekiel 20), to build up His glory among the nations of the earth - good reminder.
  • I love the end of 1 Thessalonians - it's passionate call to live a holy, pure life in the light of Jesus' immanent return. But most of all I love the command to not put out the Spirit's fire. Oh God, I hope that I don't do this - that the fire in my bones would never die.
  • I'm preaching through 2 Thessalonians in the fall and have been doing some initial work in it this spring - captivated by Paul's laser-focus on the second coming. I'm thinking of calling the series, "Living with the end in mind."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Day 65/90: 1 Kgs 11-15, Ez 7-12, 1 Thess 1-3

Highlights from today's reading:
  • Chapter 11 marks the turning point of the books of 1 Kings and begins the downward descent for the nation of Israel (and later Judah) into captivity. Solomon got in trouble with the ladies (like his dad) and his heart was turned away from God by his many wives...another good reminder that our desires can lead us to idolatry - his desire for sexual pleasure and political alliances led his heart away from commitment to God. And the results of that are plain to read - the kings who followed split the kingdom into two, and they continued the practice of doing what was "evil in the sight of the Lord." Interestingly enough, King Asa stands out in chapter 15 as one of the kings who did what was right in the sight of the Lord. As today, those whose hearts are fully committed to the Lord are the exception, not the rule. There is also more to be said here about how the heart and commitment of the king directs the path of the whole nation - more tomorrow on this important theme of 1 & 2 Kings.
  • Ezekiel is full of God's judgment on the people of Israel for their idolatry. They have built altars to foreign gods and their hearts have gone astray. Sounds very similar to what is happening in 1 Kings. I think the point is the same - we have to guard our hearts from wandering into idolatry. Idolatry is our main problem. This reinforces the idea that everyone worships - the question is not if we will worship, but what or who we will worship. There are two interesting parts to this passage in Ezekiel for me: one, they think that they can hide their idolatry from God, but He knows what is going on - a reminder for us to be honest and confess and repent; two, God makes a promise in 11: 18-21 that has to do with His restoration through the Messiah - God will give his people an "undivided heart" and a heart of "flesh" that is soft toward His ways. I love the vividness of the imagery here.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1-3 really shows the heart of Paul for the people that he had discipled and was now instructing from afar. He has a genuine passion for them to walk strongly in the grace of Jesus Christ, to stay faithful to the gospel they received, and to live a life that is worthy of the calling that Christ had put on their lives. His heart is best expresses in 2:7-8; "we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Day 64/90: 1 Kings 6-10, Ezekiel 1-6, Col 3-4

Highlights from today's reading:
  • The words of 1 Kings 6-10 contain the building and dedication of Solomon's temple. It is a moving scene, but I am amazed that the people of Israel got it wrong when the text is so clear - God is committed to His people, not to a building. His commitment is to bring Himself glory by leading His people to stand out among the nations. And instead, they believed that God would always be with them in Jerusalem because the temple was built there...Solomon is clear - God's blessing on Israel was contingent on their obedience.
  • Ezekiel is a very graphic, language-heavy book in the OT - lots of images and metaphors and pictures of what God was trying to communicate. What I love about it is that God asks Ezekiel to go and have all these experiences that would then become object lessons for His messages. I wonder sometimes how much our lives are like that even when we don't know it - God is working through our story and showing us about Himself and His love for the world.
  • So many jewels in Colossians 3 & 4, a somewhat shorter summary of Ephesians 4-6 - but what I walk away with is the message of God to those He has redeemed - live according to the calling He has placed on your life. Don't live as you used to live because you are not who you used to be.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Day 63/90: 1 Kings 1-5, Lam 1-5, Col 1-2

Today's Highlights:
  • I am encouraged to pray for wisdom after reading about Solomon's prayer for wisdom as king of Israel. I know that as a pastor maybe the greatest need I have every day is for supernatural wisdom from God in the decisions that I make. I know that Barie prays daily for me to have divine wisdom in my leadership, and I so appreciate her prayers. I definitely need more wisdom from the Lord each day.
  • Lamentations is an interesting book because it describes the heartfelt cry of a people who have experienced the judgment of God firsthand. They have lost their homeland and their capital city - they understand that God has judged them for their idolatry, and that they should take the consequences of their actions, but it still hurts. I can hear the words of Job in the background - "should we accept good from the hand of the Lord and not bad?" A very challenging question. Overall, however, I really liked reading the charge to be still before the Lord, wait on Him and trust Him for all things. As a motivated young leader, I constantly need to be reminded to wait on the Lord - He is the One at work, not me.
  • Paul's language in Colossians is so beautiful - the complete supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. A great reminder that He is the leader of our church, and that we should ask regularly, "What does Jesus want us to do?"

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Day 62/90: 2 Sam 21-24, Jer 48-52, Phil 3-4

Today's Highlights:
  • At the end of David's life, we see the interesting combination of his continued passionate pursuit of God (including his awesome songs) with the continuing consequences from his sin. His house is never at peace through the end of his life, but he does keep his eyes on the Lord and remembers what is important - his song of praise in 2 Samuel 22-23 is powerful. I also like his words in 2 Samuel 24.24 where he says that he will not sacrifice anything to the Lord that costs him nothing - a good reminder to give our best to the Lord, not just our left-overs.
  • The end of Jeremiah is a sober section of exile realized (as the Babylonians take those in Judah into captivity) combined with incredible hope that God will one day bring judgment on Babylon - several of the last chapters of Jeremiah are God's promises to bring His wrath on the people of Babylon for their cruelty toward Judah. Interesting that God will still hold those people accountable for their actions even if he uses their actions to complete His purposes - deep theology there...
  • I love Paul's focus on joy in Philippians - he talks about rejoicing in all circumstances. He also talks about how the Lord had taught him to be content in all situations - when he had much and when he had little. This is an area that I need to continue to grow in - to have joy in all situations. I especially have been challenged by Philippians 4:5 - "let your gentleness be evident to all." I need to continually work on this area...