Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Psalm 139 Part 2 - June 23, 2009

The second half of Psalm 139 - read through it just like yesterday...(insert your name every time you see a blank.)
13 For you created ___________ inmost being;
you knit __________ together in his/her mother's womb.
14 ___________ praises you because _____________ is fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
___________ knows that full well.
15 ____________ frame was not hidden from you
when ___________ was made in the secret place.
When ___________ was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw ___________ unformed body.
All the days ordained for ____________
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to ____________ are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were ___________ to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When ___________ awakes,
____________ is still with you.
19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from ___________, you bloodthirsty men!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Does ___________ not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
and abhor those who rise up against you?
22 ____________ has nothing but hatred for them;
____________ counts them his/her enemies.
23 Search ___________, O God, and know ____________ heart;
test ___________ and know ___________ anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in _____________,
and lead ___________ in the way everlasting.
This is coming from the mouth of David in the Old Testament, in a time where they did not have the Holy Spirit as an advisor and did not fully understand God's heart for ALL people...so the hatred section sounds really harsh when you put your name in there - I was a bit uncomfortable. BUT, shouldn't there be hatred for the enemies of God...not hatred of the men and women themselves, but hatred of their ways and actions. When someone misuses the name of God and dishonors my creator and Lord I should hate that. I should hate it when I do those things. This Psalm drives home the seriousness of protecting God's name.
I also love how the Psalm closes out - with me asking God to search me for anything offensive. God, I desperately want to be led into the way everlasting...I want to leave the finite meaningless things I chase after behind to seek your path.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Psalm 139 - June 22, 2009

The spiritual discipline we are practicing in the youth group this week, is the discipline of prayer. One of the techniques we are using, is called "praying through scripture." You simply meditate on God's word and pray through the passage allowing God to speak to you. I figured I could use some of those passages int he blog this week. You can take Psalm 139 and insert your name where there is an "I" or a "me," it is an incredible practice to hear God speak His love to you. These are the first 12 verses of Psalm 139...read through them and put your name in the blank. What is God saying to you?

1 O LORD, you have searched _____________
and you know ___________.
2 You know when ___________ sits and when ___________ rises;
you perceive ___________ thoughts from afar.
3 You discern ___________ going out and ___________ lying down;
you are familiar with all ___________ ways.
4 Before a word is on ____________ tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
5 You hem __________ in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon _____________.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for _____________,
too lofty for ___________ to attain.
7 Where can ___________ go from your Spirit?
Where can ___________ flee from your presence?
8 If ___________ goes up to the heavens, you are there;
if ___________ makes his/her bed in the depths, a]">[a] you are there.
9 If ___________ rises on the wings of the dawn,
if ___________ settles on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide __________,
your right hand will hold __________ fast.
11 If __________ says, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
As I read through the passage above putting my name in the blank, I couldn't help but connect to God. I couldn't help but feel more deeply how well He knows me, how much He longs for a relationship with me. Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Zephaniah 3:17 - June 17, 2009

I will be spending this week going over one of the most popular verses of all time...a verse crazed Christians stands hold up on cardboard signs at sporting events to bring people to Christ...a verse everybody has memorized from the time they are three years old...Zephaniah 3:17! Oh wait...most people don't even know that there is a book of Zephaniah in the Bible. It is one of the smallest prophetic works in the Good Book. I am practicing the discipline of worship through celebration and thankfulness this week and am going to focus on a different aspect of this passage over the next couple of days.

The verse starts out, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save." That is a short sentence that packs a lot of punch. Think about how beautiful this promise/prophecy is...God is in our midst. God is with us always. God is near. We can celebrate the fact that no matter how crazy and horrible this life gets, we are in the presence of God. That is worth celebrating! God is with me, right now - I love it!

And He is not here just lurking over our shoulder waiting for us to mess up so He can make us feel guilty. He is here to save us. He is mighty and has the power to save us and He wants to save us. That means when you are struggling with temptation, you are not alone and you have a God with you that wants to help you...wants to give you the strength to fight and wants to offer you a way out! I Corinthians 10:13 tells us, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." We have a God who is with us...and we have a God who is offering us a way out of our brokenness! If that is not cause for celebration I don't know what is! Go worship Him.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Matthew Chapters 1-5 - June 5, 2009

Looking for the heart of God to the entire world through Matthew 1-5...

The case can be made fairly easily that God's heart for the world is evident in Matthew, because Matthew lays out the story of the salvation of man coming to earth in the form of the God/man Jesus. In verse 21 of the first chapter, the angel tells Joseph that Jesus will save his people from their sins. With an understanding that Jesus is the creator of all things, we know that "his people" has more far-reaching implications than simply the nation of Israel. Not only does this refer to the Jewish people, but to all peoples of the world. We see this truth written out at the beginning of chapter two when we find out that God has called upon Gentile wise men to come and worship the king of the Jews and the savior of the world. This is a perfect example of God's heart for the world and active participation int he world outside of Israel. In chapter four the devil takes Jesus to the top of a mythical mountain that looks down upon every kingdom int he world and offers to give them all over to Jesus. We see first hand a spiritual war that is being fought for the sake of the world. Though Jesus would be the perfect and just earthly king over these kingdoms, he knows that to truly bring salvation for these peoples he must die. He rejects the offer of Satan and sticks to the true salvation plan. We see at the end of chapter four that Jesus calls uneducated fishermen to be his disciples, which highlights his heart for reaching out the marginalized. That same heart carries love and compassion for the marginalized and downtrodden of every people group. Finally, when Jesus speaks of salt and light during the sermon on the mount he is calling the nation of Israel to be a change agent to the nations. If God didn't have a heart for all of humanity, why would Jesus hold up his followers as a light to the world?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Daniel Chapters 1-5 - June 2, 2009

Looking for God's heart for all people through the first 5 chapters of Daniel...

From the very beginning, we are once again confronted with the fact that God is sovereign over all people. We are told that the people of Judah are handed over by God to the Babylonians. The theme throughout these five chapters seems to be that God does care about what is going on in the lives of people outside of the Israelite world. In chapter two, the Babylonian king has been plagued by dreams he does not understand and Daniel comes forward to interpret the dreams. Daniel interprets the dream for the king and makes it clear that the only reason he was able to do so, was because God wanted the king to understand what the dreams meant. The dream in itself serves as a map of God working through a multitude of different people groups, and it gives us a picture of the impact that God's salvation plan is going to have on the history of all humanity. We see as the story plays out that each time God intervenes in the life of the pagan king, the king walks away praising the Lord. God could have easily brought judgment upon the Babylonian king, but instead He chooses to offer him a chance to repent and turn from his arrogance. God offers multiple chances at forgiveness and redemption tot he king. When the king tries to force God-fearers into worshipping an idol, the fiery furnace incident open his eyes again to the power of God. When the king again returns to prideful leadership, Daniel confronts him about his lack of humility and warns that God will expose his true weakness. Again, after being miraculously shown the power of the one true God, Nebuchadnezzar gives his honor to the King of Heaven. Nebuchadnezzar's story ends there and one would hope that his life was lived out as a God-fearer. Whatever the outcome, we can see that God went out of His way to show His power to the king and offer mercy. Clearly God's heart for people goes beyond the boundaries of Israel. Daniel offers us a snapshot from the Babylonian world, but I believe it is safe to assume that God has always been working powerfully in the lives of men and women from every stretch of the globe so that His name might be glorified.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Isaiah Chapters 1-5 - June 1, 2009

Read through the first 5 chapters of Isaiah and give me your feedback about God's heart for the entire world...

I thought this was going to be a difficult book to line up with God's love to all of humanity. Chapter one starts out by clearly defining that the vision Isaiah sees regards Judah and Jerusalem, so I expected the writing to have a very narrow scope. In verse ten of chapter one Isaiah calls out to the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah which are destroyed cities that often serve as symbolic examples of people who are against God. Isaiah is calling people who stand in opposition the ways of God, to make themselves clean, seek justice, fight oppression and do good. While it is possible that Isaiah is simply referring to the rebellious people of Judah as Sodom and Gomorrah, I think it is clear that God is calling all peoples of the world to His truth. At the beginning of chapter two, the author states that the people of the Lord will stand as a shining example to the rest of the world as to what true life really looks like. He describes people from everywhere flowing to the House of God so that He might teach them His ways. Throughout the old testament we are constantly reminded that God is setting the nation of Israel apart so that they can bring the rest of the world to God. In verse twenty of chapter two Isaiah makes it clear that in the future people from every walk of the globe will throw away their idols when they come in contact with the splendor of God's majesty. This implies that all people were made for God, not just the Israelites. All people when confronted with the magnitude of God's nature cannot help but worship Him. Most of the third, fourth and fifth chapters are heavily Hebrew-centric until we come to verse twenty-six of chapter five. The prophet speaks of how God will raise up a signal to the nations and they will come from the very ends of the earth to heed His call. In the context of this chapter, the call seems to be a call of judgement on the Israelites, but it must be noted that when the Israelites turn away from God, He uses the rest of the world to do His will. This seems to foreshadow the Gospel presentation in the NewTestament which went frist to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.