Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Joel Chapters 1-3

Read this and you have read a book of the Bible today...nice work!

2:13 - I love this verse!!! This is a picture of the heart of God...He is the God of second chances...if we are willing to return to Him and throw ourselves on His mercy He will relent from the destruction we deserve and He offers us grace instead. Thank you God.

2:25 - Even though we will face the consequences of our sinful actions and poor choices (Most likely we have all figured that out by now), God's awesome forgiveness offers hope and the possibility of redemption in the future. All is not lost! Return to God. No matter what you have done...your relationship...your hope...your soul...can be restored by the power of God's love.

2:28 - Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we see lived out in the Gospels - a perfect sacrifice that was made "once for ALL" - the Holy Spirit of God has been poured out on ALL of humanity. God is working in this world and working in our lives...shaping us...are you listening?

2:32 - For me this has echoes of Romans 10:9 which says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead - you will be saved." ALL who call on the Lord will be saved...again we see God's heart for all the people of the world, not just the Israelites. The Lord is calling to us...calling us to life...calling us to perfect community...calling us to hope...are you willing to see how inadequate you are to save yourself and cry out to Him?

3:16 - This reminds me of an incredible picture painted by C.S. Lewis in the "Magicians Nephew." It is the picture of the lion Aslan (Jesus/God), roaring out a song of love...a song of creation...a song of power...that brings the newly created world into being. Everything around Aslan reverberates with the perfect majesty and power of His voice. God voice roars out and the world trembles beneath His perfection and power. The Word (The Roar) became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world He gave His one and only son, so that whoever believes in Him will not parish by have everlasting life." This event shook the very foundations of human history and brought hope.

3:21 - Never forget that God is justice...and justice will be met out. Vengeance is for God...not for us. We must always trust int he way that God works out His plan and the path through which He will bring justice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hosea Chapters 10-14

10:12 - The old, "you reap what you sow" adage is used throughout the scriptures (It probably originated in the Bible). Hosea is very clear that if you "sow" the righteousness of God...if you live out your faith and strive to walk in God's truth, you will "reap" love, creation, redemption, joy, etc. When you "sow" selfishness and rebellion against God, you "reap" destruction and heap guilt on your head.

11:1 - In this passage, this verse is used to reference God's calling of the Israelite people out of Egypt during the exodus...but it is also a prophetic reference given to Hosea that speaks of the coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew 2:15 tells us that this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus because Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped to Egypt to avoid the infanticide that was taking place in Israel around the time of his birth. Later, God called his son back from Egypt to begin his ministry to the Jews.

11:8 - Even though God knows that His people deserve harsh judgment for what they have done, He loves them too much...He cannot destroy them...He shows compassion to them. God's compassion and love are always there in His character...they always offer us a glimmer of hope in spite of our sinfulness. It was that loving compassion that drove God to give himself as a sacrifice for our sins. To take our judgment so that we might be spared.

13:4 - This passage is very clear...there is only one entity in existence who can save - God. Salvation can only possibly come through based on what we know about the NT - Jesus is God in the flesh. If salvation came through Jesus and salvation can only come through God, than Jesus is God. This is just another passage that supports a trinitarian understanding of the nature of God.

13:14 - This verse is basically a hope filled taunt that God throws in the face of sin and death. Death as inevitable and powerful as it is, cannot overcome the love of God. Death will never overcome God's mercy. Death has no power in the face of God, and so God says, "Where o death is your sting?" Where is your strength...where is your power, because it does not exist before me. In the wins.

14:3 - This is another heartbreaking example of the rejection of God that is still so prevalent in believers lives today. The men and women of Israel began to cry out to and worship idols they had created with their own hands...that sounds so absurd doesn't it? But how many of us bow down and worship our jobs, our hobbies, our possessions...things that are meaningless on an eternal scale. Be careful where you use your worship.

14:4-7 - What a way to end the book of Hosea! Future hope. Promises of healing. No matter how far we have fallen God is strong enough and loving enough to handle our sins and bring redemption to our lives. The only place we will ever truly flourish is in the presence of our awesome God.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hosea Chapters 7-9

7:3 - Hosea is telling them that the whole land is corrupt from top to bottom. As the people continue to sink deeper and deeper into the mire of idolatry and sinfulness...where are their leaders? Where are the kings and princes that the people so desparately longed for (So they could be "like everybody else!")? Are they calling the people to change? Are they leading by example? Are they creating accountability? No. They actually rejoice at the sinfulness of the people...they cheer as the people reject God...they are the antheisis of godly leadership. In the areas of your life where you are a leader - does you leadership reflect godliness or human selfishness?

7:14 - The people are distraught and lost...they feel empty and unsatisfied...they cry out for help, but they do not really seek God. They try to fill the emptiness within them...they try to fill it with food...they try to dull their minds with alcohol...they try to cut themselves, so they can feel something...anything...but it all leaves them empty, because they are not truly seeking God.

7:16 - They say they want to come back...they say they want things to return to the way they were, when times were good, but they refuse to look up. They refuse to look to God for help and strength. They will not humble themselves before God, so they will continue to be trapped in the emptiness of their corrupt lives.

8:2 and 3 - They claim to know God, but they do not. Their true feelings are demonstrated by their actions and their words. They defy God at every turn...they revel in their sinfulness...they are not believers. How about us? The truth of our faith is lived out every day. Are we driven to holiness by the blood of Jesus Christ, or does wickedness pour out of our faithlessness? It doesn't really work any other don't get to claim to follow Jesus and then refuse to follow him.

8:8 - Israel has been so twisted and influenced by the pagan world around it, that they have become utterly useless to the kingdom of God. God called them to be His priest stand out as a light to the draw people towards the holiness of God. But they allowed themselves to become just like everyone else. This same thing happens today. How many of us have become useless vessels for the kingdom of God, because when non-Christians look at our lives they see nothing different about them? That cannot be the case!

9:10 - They offered themselves us to false gods, idols, temptation and sin...and they became as vile as the objects that they worshipped. We take on the twisted, sick characteristics of the sins we partake in. Let's not pile guilt and perversion on our heads by getting caught up in things that run contrary to the way of Jesus.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hosea Chapters 4-6

4:1 - No land is "God's land" if the majority of the people are faithless and do not allow the truths of God to shape their everyday lives. That is why I often find is laughable when people refer to America as "God's Country"...look around...look at the way we consume while others starve...look at the filth we export across the world...I think we live in a culture that chases after pagan idols made of metal and wood (electronics and money) much like Israel in Hosea's time.

4:6 - One of the many things that destroys our lives is our ignorance to God's plans for us...our lack of understanding about what will really bring us fulfillment. When we choose to ignore God's truth, we invite destruction into out relationships, work places, and souls.

4:7 - Look around with a discerning eye and you will see that it is often the most wealthy and successful people that quickly turn away from God. When life is good and you don't have to fight for survival every day, you can start to believe that you don't need God...start to believe that you can save can bring yourself never works. One of the great truths about the equality of human beings is that rich or poor, successful or not...we are all in desperate need of the salvation that comes through God and only God.

5:13 - When we rely on human strength and ingenuity to save us, we will always be let down in the end. Nothing in this world can save not cling to after His truth and the rest will take care of itself.

6:1 - This verse lays out for us the purpose of God's discipline on His people. God brings judgment so that His people will return to Him. He allows pain so that we will seek His healing.

6:2 - I like this promise of hope and allusion to the future salvation that comes through the cross. God will raise his people up on the third day. In Judaism, after the third day, the person was considered well and truly dead...this highlights the fact that only God can save us from the death and destruction brought on by sin. We know that Jesus actually experienced death on our behalf...he was no simply asleep...he was not drugged...he was dead in a tomb and God brought him back to life. God is the bringer of life and resurrection for every person.

6:4 - Human love is often fickle and disappearing like the morning dew. This is a stark contrast to the eternal and steadfast love of God. Which love should you put your hope in?

6:6 - This is what God wants from us...this is what faith looks like lived out. A living faith is demonstrated by steadfast love for God and others, and a thirst for His truth. Do these characteristics define your life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hosea Chapters 1-3

1:2 - God calls the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute...why would God do this to a man who loves Him? God wants Hosea to experience this difficult relationship, so that Hosea can more deeply understand and be able to communicate to the people of Israel what God feel when they are unfaithful. Often, difficult trials in life enable us to rely on God more deeply and understand His love even better. You will also notice, that Hosea never objects to God's instructions to marry Gomer. He is faithful to God and apparently in love with his adulterous wife. In Hosea's commitment to Gomer, he follows in the merciful footsteps of God who continuously loves people who reject Him.

1:6ff - The first child: Jezreel - why the strange name? This child is actually Hosea's and God instructs him to name the child Jezreel as a prophetic message to the people of Israel, that the dynasty of Jehu that began with a blood bath in the valley of Jezreel (2 Kings 9 and 10), will come to an end in the same manner. The second child: Lo'tuhama - due to Gomer's adulterous behavior, this child might be Hosea's and might not. The second prophetic name is used to tell the people that God will allow their sin and rebellion to go on unchecked. There will be consequences for their actions and He will allow those to play out without mercy. The third child: Lo'ammi - this is almost certainly not Hosea's child, but one that was conceived out of adultery. Not only is Lo'ammi not Hosea's child, but God wants the people of Israel to understand that they are no longer His people because they have broken their covenant promises and prostituted themselves out to the cultures around them.

1:10ff - Amazingly, Hosea parallels the child name prophecies immediately with opposing prophecies that offer hope in the future. Though God is going to allow His people to face the consequences of their sins...He is allowing it in an effort to bring them back to Him. God does not punish His people out of spite or because He enjoys it...He brings punishment so that there might be change and hope. The people of Israel who hear this prophecy and take it to heart will have the opportunity to once again be the people of once again be connected to the living God...the God who brings life! God actions always bring redemption and hope in the end.

2:4 and 5 - This highlights the destructive cycle of cultural sinfulness and perversion. Cultures that are dominated by anti-God behavior and principles, produce generations of people that are the same way. This is what was happening in Israel for generations. In the same way, children who grow up in twisted home environments, often find themselves twisted in the same fashion. Parents must always remember that great responsibility that comes with shaping the lives of their sons and daughters.

2:13 - God is deadly serious about the sin that exists in our lives. Are you? Are you doing everything you can...are you crying out to God for strength and mercy in dealing with the sin in your own life? When we bow down and worship the things of this world, we set ourselves against God. When we chase after the material wealth and success of our cultures, we become blinded to the point where we can no longer see God. That is very dangerous.

2:19 and 20 - As always with God, there is hope at the end of the period of punishment. Even in the face of Israel's cultural adultery...even though they have turned from Him over and over...God is willing to "marry" them...He is willing to be in covenant relationship with them and give them everything they need. That is the God we serve...that is the God who loves us...honor your vows to Him.

2:23 - Yet another picture of God's gracious and undeserved love. He will love the unlovable. He will have mercy on those who do not deserve it. He will take the rebellious, the adulterous, the sinful, the broken, and make them into His people once again.

3:1 - This is the ultimate explanation for why God asked Hosea to make his married life into a prophetic illustration. The prophet will take Gomer back, just as God take His adulterous people back. Can I follow in the footsteps of Hosea? Can I exhibit this kind of faithfulness to the calling of God? When I go through difficult/painful experiences, can I choose to become more like God rather than blaming Him? That is what Hosea does.

3:2 - Such a great picture of reconciliation with God. Look at what Hosea does here: he pays the price for Gomer's adultery; he takes her back into his home and sets up the rules for how they can redeem their marriage; and he promises even in the face of all she has done to love her as his wife. Incredible. God paid the price for our sins on the cross. God invites us into the community of the Holy Trinity and calls us His bride. God promises to love us. In light of your own struggles and sinfulness, what kind of rules do you need to set up to make sure that you are honoring God with your life? What needs to change? What do you need to stay away from?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daniel Chapters 10-12

10:5ff - Daniel comes face to face with the vision of an angelic being - some have guessed over the years that this may be the angel Gabriel who is often used by God to deliver messages to people, but there is no clear evidence in this passage to make a strong case for naming him. What is clear is that this is a being of great power.

10:7ff - It is interesting that Daniel's friends cannot see the angel, yet they know that they are in the presence of a great source of power...they go running in fear, though they can see nothing. I think it is possible that this face to face meeting is more than just a dream-like vision. I think Daniel may be getting access to the world behind the veil...he is most likely looking into the spiritual realm that exists around all of us all the time. He can see the reality of what is going on that we are so often ignorant of.

10:13 - Though some have tried to make the case that this powerful being is God, I do not think that is the case because the being says that it needed help from another angel, Michael, to be able to get through to Daniel. I promise you, God is infinitely more powerful than any of His created beings. We get the picture here of angelic and demonic warfare. The angels have been trying to get through the Daniel to give him a message, but evil forces of the prince of Persia have held them at bay. Finally with the help of Michael, the chief warrior angel, the messenger is able to break through and approach Daniel. Makes me wonder what kind of spiritual warfare is going on around all of us all the time. Never forget that prayer is not just about asking for things you want...prayer is one of the most powerful weapons you have in the face of the spiritual war that is constantly raging in our midst.

Chapter 11 - I do not have the time to write this all out in detail, but this is an amazing example of biblical prophecy that can absolutely be backed up by secular history. Written years and years before any of it happens, Daniel is able to chronicle the fall of the Persian Empire that had just come to power, the rise of Alexander the Great and his quick demise, the splitting of Alexanders great kingdom into four parts and the intrigue and warfare that take place after that transition. It is amazing how detailed and perfect the account is. The greatest of the four that was mentioned previously in Daniel is the ruler Antiochus Epiphanies who did his best to eradicate traditional Judaism. The one thing that is unclear about the prophecy in chapter 11 is how it seems to switch gears in verse 36. Though the prophecy has clearly been about Antiochus in the previous verses, it seems to change roles and make reference to a more distant future anti-Christ that will lead the world into chaos before the final judgement of God. It is okay to get to a point where we say that we cannot definitively say what a prophetic passage means, because the mysteries of God are not something that can be perfectly placed within a human create systematic theology. What we know is that the world will continue to be attacked by leaders and followers who display anti-Christ behavior, until the end when God will make everything right.

12:2-3: This is an incredible passage that is the only one from the OT that clearly articulates a double resurrection in the end. A resurrection of both the followers of God and those who refuse4d to humble themselves before Him. The one is resurrected for future hope and glory, and the other is resurrected for judgement and condemnation. I know what side I wanna be on!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daniel Chapters 7-9

We have to remember as Daniel switches gears into the prophetic, that he is using language that was common in the ancient world. He is using apocalyptic language...or language that revolves around the end of empires and the end of time. These visions are not generally meant to give us an exact timetable about how to figure out when the world is going to end, but affirm for us over and over, that though human evil is strong in the world...God is always in control.

7:1-8 - I'll give some basic ideas about these symbols (Again, not an exact science here)...
The Sea - we see that the waters of the sea are violent and turbulent and they give the impression of chaotic times ahead. The Babylonians had a creation myth revolving around Tiamat (Also know as "The Sea") who tried to destroy her children when they killed her husband/their father. In Babylonian mythos, Marduk (The chief God of Babylon) defeated his mother "the Sea" in battle and created the world with parts of her body. Though he defeated her, he had to enclose the sea because she violently continues to fight back. So the Babylonians associates the sea with chaos. Daniel uses this imagery to highlight the terrible things that will be coming to the world in the future.
4 Beasts - These beasts can be interpreted in various ways revolving around the Babylonians Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans and future kingdoms. The imagery that we need to focus on is the fact that the beasts are all mutant hybrids of various created beings. They are vile abominations and their very nature goes to war against God's created order. They represent the chaotic and sin-filled human systems that have plagued the world since the first sin.

7:9 - The Ancient of Days is picture here as an old and wise judge sitting on a throne of justice. It is verses like this that lead people to picture God as an old man with a long gray beard. Hopefully you know that God is not human...God is not an old man...God is not weak in any form or fashion...this is apocalyptic imagery used to highlight the ancient and wise nature of God. God is no more an old man, then the Greek Empire was literally a leopard with 4 sets of wings. This is symbolism. What you need to understand is that no matter how evil the systems of the world become, God is in control and will make sure that justice is given in the end.

7:13 and 14 - As is always clear from prophetic scripture, God wins out in the end. That is what really does not matter when it is going to be - Jesus says we will not know the day or the hour in which the end will come. What we do know is that we can put our trust in the FACT that God will prevail. Daniel says that a son of man who is like the ancient of days will come and bring an eternal kingdom that will never be overthrown. Does that sound familiar to anyone? The word became flesh and dwelt among men. Jesus is the son of man, who not only is like God, but is God...who came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to bear in the world. A kingdom bought and paid for by his blood and a kingdom that cannot be overcome.

7:18 - Though they may seem weak in the eyes of the world, it is the saints - the humble servants of God who will actually inherit the kingdom of God. Through selflessness and faithfulness, we show a strength that is unassailable to the world.

8:3 - The ram with two horns (as later interpreted by the angel Gabriel) is the Medo-Persian Empire which displaces the Babylonians and takes control of the middle east soon after this vision.

8:5 - The powerful goat with one horn is the Greek Empire led by a single powerful ruler - Alexander the Great...who conquered much of the known ancient world.

8:8 - The vision is so historically accurate it is almost scary...remember, this is written hundreds of years before any of this happens...Alexander the Great dies at the ripe old age of 33 (My age - eek!) and his sons are quickly slaughtered and his empire is split between his four most powerful generals (four horns - get it!).

8:9ff - One of the four new rulers rises up and becomes greater and more powerful than the others. Antiochus Epiphanies is most likely the little horn that grows to be large. He was the head of the Seleucid Empire which became great and powerful due to his political savvy and deceptive nature. He tried to eradicate Judaism by getting the Jewish elite to become more like the Greeks. He sacrificed pigs to Zeus on the altar of the Lord and allowed sick sex rituals to take place in the Temple.

8:14 - What is the 2300 mornings and evenings all about? Scholars are not quite sure. It could either means a literal 2300 days or 2300 morning and evening sacrifices that would take place in Judaism, which would take place over the span of 1150 days. Interestingly enough, both of those interpretations work in conjunction with huge events in Antiochus' desecration of the temple and the subsequent Jewish rebellion and rededication of the Temple.

8:17 - I always find it interesting that ever single biblical occasion where an angel shows up, people get really scared and fall on their faces. They must be incredible beings to behold. Yet, we must remember that they are simply beings that were created by our awesome God. How much more terrifying and awe-inspiring is the presence of the one and only God? Maybe one of the reasons that God does not show Himself to us, is that we could not handle it?

9:3ff - We have already seen throughout the book of Daniel, how faithful Daniel remained to God no matter what was happening around him. Yet here we see that he stands as an intercessor for his people...the people of Israel...crying out to God for forgiveness and mercy. We must always remember that faith is not something that is to be lived out on an individual is something that is supposed to be worked out int he context of community. Are you and I taking responsibility for the failures of the worldwide Church? Are we crying out to God for forgiveness...or are we looking for excuses so that we can blame others for the failings of the Church?

9:24ff - This "seventy" number is generally understood to be seventy-sevens or seventy weeks of years, which actually comes out to be 490 years. Gabriel is confirming Jeremiah's prophecy of a 70 year exile, but also saying that the return to Jerusalem will only be the beginning of a judgement that will last nearly 500 years. When Antiochus sacrifices pigs (unclean animals) on the altar of God, the Jews referred to that act as the abomination of desolation or an abomination that is so vile that it only brings desolation. Now check out Daniel 9:27 - the abominations that makes desolate. After the Jewish people rebelled against Antiochus and eventually earned their freedom, they were able to rededicate the Temple to God. And shortly after that, one who was like a Son of Man came to earth...born of a virgin...born in Bethlehem the hometown of King David...and he came so that we might have life and have it to the full...he came to put an end to the abomination of desolation and make it so that we could become part of his eternal kingdom.