Thursday, August 30, 2012

Genesis 18, Nehemiah 7, Matthew and Acts 17

A couple interesting things pop out of these texts...

Does Abraham have a better plan than God with regard to Sodom? It seems that God acquiesce to Abraham's merciful wishes - what does this mean - does God change His mind? I believe that God is simply treating Abraham with mercy. Abraham does not yet understand that there is hope for the righteous after death. God understands that if Sodom is leveled...the righteous will experience perfected life after death...Abraham cannot grasp this concept. So God offers to spare the city if there are even 10 righteous people inside because of his love for Abraham, not because Abraham saw something that God overlooked.

I love the story of Paul in the Areopagus!!! He is relentless in his declaration of God's truth. Whether it is in Jewish synagogues or pagan gatherings...Paul fearlessly proclaims the truth of God. This is a great model for all Christ-followers to emulate...a great challenge for me...where is my Areopagus? This story is so fitting because it is directly applicable to every era of human history. These pagan men and women were caught up in idolatry and desperately seeking fulfillment through false gods. Paul steps into their lives...meets them where they are...uses their language...and shows them that what they have always been seeking in the one and only God that he follows. Nothing about this truth has changed, and there are countless people around us who need to hear about this reality...they need to be met where they are and hear the Gospel presented in their own "language" (meaning - not in Christianese).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Genesis 17, Nehemiah 6, Matthew and Acts 16

I found it interesting that circumcision came up in two of the passages today. The first came from Genesis where God made the practice of circumcision part of the covenant with Abraham. The second came when Paul took Timothy, whop had a Greek father, to be circumcised as part of the process of becoming an evangelist with Paul. I know circumcision is a pretty uncomfortable topic (Especially for men - OUCH!!!), but I think these experiences offer us a great challenge. Abraham is a 100 years old when God makes this covenant with him - 100!!! And what does he do when God tells him that part of the covenant is that he must cut off a piece of his skin that has been attached in a very sensitive area for 100 years? He goes out the same day and gets fact he had every single man and boy in his household circumcised. He has been called by God to do something, and so he is another great example of faith from Abraham. He could have made excuses...he could have tried to wait until God made Sarah pregnant (just to be sure)...but instead he stepped out in faith and did what he knew God was telling him to do. In the same way, Timothy agrees to get circumcised as a young man...circumcised in a time where God was revealing to the followers of Jesus that they didn't really have to be circumcised. Timothy gets circumcised anyway...the question is why? Because he thought he could do more effective ministry to his Jewish brothers. The ministry that God called him to was more important than his comfort. He was willing to make sacrifices to honor God with his life. Jesus talks about counting the cost of discipleship in Matthew chapter 16...both of these men counted the cost of following God and they decided it was worth anything to honor their Master. How about you? I have seen people who have been convicted by God to change things in their lives...who end up making excuses...end up dragging out taking any decisive action...and then they never end up truly following God. They get back into the swing of things in life and ignore the call of God. There is a reason we are still reading about Abraham and Timothy...and a reason that we know nothing about the people that refused to offer themselves to men and women of action, and when God is calling you to whatever it takes to honor Him with your life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Genesis 16, Nehemiah 5, Matthew and Acts 15

In Acts 15, we see something that at first seems pretty heartbreaking. After a very successful time of doing ministry together, Paul and Barnabus get into an argument and go their separate ways. It would be easy to think about the destructiveness of fighting among fellow Christians...I could easily write about instances I have seen in the church where petty arguments have led to fractured relationships and church splits...but I want to focus on the positive nature of the argument Paul and Barnabus have. Apparently they strongly disagree with one another about whether John Mark should join them on their next missionary venture...they argue an decide to go their separate ways. Yet in doing so, they each take on the role of mentor for a younger believer and they go to different places doubling the impact of their ministry. Yes, they get in an argument...but they move on...they don't try to stir other people up against their opponent...they get back to God's work. This is what arguments in the church should look like! I work on a church staff, and though we are all close...we do not always see eye to fact we are rarely all in 100% agreement (Sometimes people have trouble understanding that my way is the best - LOL)...yet, we move forward to do the ministry that God has called us to. Even when there are hard words spoken...even if feelings are hurt...there has to be a moment of clarity in Christian minds when we come back to understanding that there is a greater task to be worked out than trying to get our own way. Human beings argue...people don't always see eye to eye...but if these people are brothers and sisters in Christ, they should be able to walk away from an disagreement without bitterness and with an understanding that there is work to be done in God's Kingdom!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, Matthew and Acts 11

A thought...

Though it is easy to get caught up in Abram's lies to the Pharaoh in this passage (not smart!)...I am drawn more to the way he travels. He picks up everything...leaves everything he knows to follow God, and throughout the journey he stops to build altars and praise God. He is continually reminding himself of why he is traveling...who he is following. This is a great example. A great many people get fired up about following God for a short time, but they fall away when it gets hard or when they don't feel the same passion as they did before...Abram gives us a practical way to combat that falling away - make it a point to stop and praise God...make it a point to remember who you are following and why you are living sacrificially.

Fell free to share any of your thoughts on the passages, in the comments section.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Genesis 11, Matthew, Ezra and Acts 10

It is hard for me to focus any comments on anything other than Matthew because that passage is so full of powerful teachings from Jesus. I really appreciate that Jesus sends his followers out with a clear understanding of what they are getting into. They will have power...they will do incredible things...but it is going to be very difficult. They will be persecuted...they will be hated...they will be rejected by family and friends. When Christians choose to boldly follow Christ wit their lives, there will be negative response from the evil forces of the world. The cost of discipleship is high...but the gain is absolutely priceless. Look at what Jesus says in 10:32ff...when we acknowledge Christ before the people of this world, we can be certain that Jesus will acknowledge and defend us before God the Father!!! That is incredible! It does not matter if our lives are does not matter if we experience physical and emotional suffering...we know how this story ends!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Genesis 9 and 10. Matthew, Ezra and Acts 9.

A question came to mind as I was reading today's passages. Why does Jesus jump all over the Pharisees for hating sinners, while the Israelites in the Old Testament are forbidden to have anything to do with people that were different than them? Doesn't that seem like a contradiction? Aren't the Pharisees basically living out a worldview that was given to them by God in the OT? What do you think about it? I think the big issue is not being around "sinners," the big issue is the purpose and outcome of the interactions. Jesus is meeting with sinners and tax collectors because he wants to bring life change to them...he wants to bring them into his kingdom...he wants to share a message of hope with them. They need to hear that - everybody needs to hear that! In the Ezra passage we see that the issue is not just hanging out with non-Jews...the issue is that Jews have been marrying pagans, who remain pagan after the marriage. The Jewish people have allowed their families and communities to be infiltrated and corrupted by pagan worship practices, which is what got them into the whole exile predicament in the first place...and that is just crazy!!! Jesus encourages his followers to bring everyone from the darkness into the light, and to do have to sometimes go out into the darkest corners of the earth. The corrupted Jews were just interested in finding the hottest most exotic looking women around to marry, not caring if they ever became God-followers. That's the difference. What about you? It is fine to hang out with non-Christians as long as you know you are on a mission to influence them towards Christ. If you feel yourself being dragged away from God and towards corruption, then you need to find more positive community to grow as a disciple of Christ.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts 8

There are four really great examples of the faithfulness of God followers in these passages. In Genesis, we see Noah immediately worship God after being brought through the is the first thing he does! In Matthew, the pagan Roman commander shows his faithfulness by understanding that Jesus had the power to heal with a word...he didn't try to make a production out of Jesus coming to his house - he simply had faith. In Ezra, the leaders of the returning exiles begin their journey back to Jerusalem with a time of fasting and prayer...they fully understand that their endeavor will be meaningless without God's blessing. And finally, in Acts Philip listens to the voice of God and gets the chance to share the Good News with the Ethiopian eunuch...then the eunuch takes the first step in faith and immediately asks to be baptized. Great examples to have on the mind today! Does faithfulness permeate every area of your life? Are you more focused on what you can do for yourself...or what you deserve...or the comfort of your life...or are you focused on faithfully following God regardless of what you are experiencing?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts Chapter 5

Again, it seems that parallels between these passages seem to just jump off the pages (They also happen to really be greats texts by themselves as well!). For me these 4 chapters are really summed up by the words of the disciples in chapter 5 of Acts. They say in verse 29, "We must obey God and not men!" In Genesis we are introduced to Noah, who will be a man who chooses to listen to God even though everyone else thinks he is crazy. In Matthew, Jesus destroys cultural boundaries and false beliefs by showing what a God-following life actually looks like lived out. The whole Sermon on the Mount is basically saying, "Man has corrupted what God intended through the Law!" In Ezra, the returning Jews refuse to stop building the temple because they know that God wants them to continue construction. And finally in Acts, the apostles refuse to stop talking about Jesus because they know it is the truth. Very challenging passages for us...are you willing to follow God and live faithfully regardless of what people around you think? Regardless of persecution? Regardless of consequences?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts 4

I find it interesting that each of these stories highlights conflict for those who are trying to follow God. Abel is killed because Cain is jealous of the offering that Abel makes. Cain resents the close connection Abel has to God because it magnifies his own separation from God. In Matthew, we see Jesus confronted face to face by Satan. Satan quotes scriptures, uses brides and temptation, and does everything he can to convince Jesus to act selfishly. In Ezra the Jews who have returned to the horrible living conditions of destroyed Jerusalem meet hostility and deception while trying to rebuild God's temple. Finally, the leaders of the growing church are brought before the Jewish council and told to stop teaching about Jesus Christ.

There is something that we must all remember as God followers - we are at war! Since the Fall there have been forces of evil working in opposition to the work of God in the world. When we choose to faithfully follow God, we do not get a free pass from trouble. In fact, these verses seem to show us that people who are doing God's work will often face the greatest trials, temptations and opposition! I might even be bold enough to say that you should probably be a little worried about the level of your commitment to Christ if you never face any persecution or trials. Those who sit back and do nothing for the kingdom of God are often left alone.

I love the prayer that the disciples pray after being accosted by the leaders of the Jewish council. Look again at Acts 4:29, it says, "And now Lord, look upon the threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness." That is their the face of persecution and rejection from their own people, they want only to have the strength to keep on speaking boldly about their belief in Jesus. Is that what you pray on a daily basis? God no matter what happens today, let me be used to positively impact this kingdom...let me be used to tell people about your truth. Pray that prayer everyday and you will really start making a difference (And probably start experiencing some persecution).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ezra 2, Acts, 2, Genesis 3, Matthew 3, Ezra 3 and Acts 3

I was on retreat and missed a few days of the M'Cheyne, so I did a couple extra chapters to catch up a little. It is a lot of reading, but also a great overall picture as you see God's story unfold before your eyes. The Fall in the Garden. The beginning of Jesus ministry with his baptism. The desire for the Jews to rebuild their temple and offer pure sacrifices once again. The beauty of Spirit filled followers of Christ living out their faith. These are all threads of the same story....we lost that beautiful intimate relationship with God in the Garden but were reunited with it once again through the sacrifice of Jesus. Like the beggar who is healed in Acts 3, we should live out each day in a celebration of the healing and righteousness that we have been given through Christ. Does your life reflect the newness you have in Christ every day?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

M'Cheyne (Pronounced M-Shay-Knee)

Starting a M'Cheyne reading plan today, where over the course of the year I will read the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice. It has passages from both the Old and New Testaments each will be really great. Join me in the reading if you would like to and feel free to comment on what God is teaching you through your readings.

Today we start out with Genesis 1, Matthew 1, Ezra 1 and Acts 1. This was a great reading because each of these passages is all about beginnings...the creation of earth, the beginning of Jesus life, the beginning of construction on the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and the beginning of the church.

I was drawn to the reminder given to us through Matthew 1:17. There were 14 generations from Abraham (The Father of Israel) to King David. 14 generations from David to the Babylonian exile of the Jewish nation. And 14 generations from the exile to the birth of Jesus. 14 is an important number because it is two times the number 7. 7 is the biblical number of completeness or perfection, so fourteen signifies a double measure of perfection. 14 is also used to represent salvation, which Jesus brings all humanity on the cross. The 14th day of the first month is when the original Passover took place (When the firstborn of Israel were spared from death by the blood of lambs wiped on their doorposts). Jesus himself because the ultimate sacrifice when he dies on the cross on the 14th day of the first month - Passover. 7 represents completion and 14 is very important here because it represents a double completion on the cross - the completion of Jesus' earthly ministry and the completion of the sacrifice he came to make. Pretty cool stuff!